Climate change is having a devastating affect on dry areas of the world and began influencing global drought risk for more than a century ago. Models predict that droughts will become more frequent and severe as temperatures rise, potentially causing food and water shortages, human health impacts, destructive wildfires and conflicts between peoples competing for resources. They project a new round of severe megadroughts, resulting in the driest period in 1,000 years for parts of the U.S., with droughts becoming more frequent and severe.

The United States Drought Monitor update their maps every Thursday and Climate Central has an informative page with graphics and videos. 



National Weather Service – Drought Information

The U.S. Drought monitor is an overview of drought types and drought impacts updated weekly based upon a combination of sources.


Climate change and droughts: What’s the connection?

By Tiffany Means  Photo: docentjoyce   08/18/21  
Events such as the moderate-to-extreme drought conditions that covered more than half of the mainland U.S. in 2012, the megadrought in the West that continues today, and summer 2021’s record-low water levels at Lake Mead…

In a First, U.S. Declares Shortage on Colorado River, Forcing Water Cuts

By Henry Fountain  Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images   08/16/21  
With climate change and long-term drought continuing to take a toll on the Colorado River, the federal government on Monday for the first time declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, one of the river’s…

Is Western U.S. experiencing a ‘megadrought’?

By Peter Sinclair   08/15/21  
The Western U.S. is shattering drought records this summer. For the first time since the drought monitor was created, over 95% of the region is in drought. Near Las Vegas, Lake Mead – the largest…

Severe Drought Could Threaten Power Supply in West for Years to Come

By Lindsay Huth and Taylor Umlauf  Photo: Carter McCall/WSJ   08/14/21  
As drought persists across more than 95% of the American West, water elevation at the Hoover Dam has sunk to record-low levels, endangering a source of hydroelectric power for an estimated 1.3 million people across…

Small Towns Grow Desperate for Water in California

By Thomas Fuller  Photo: Max Whittaker   08/14/21  
As a measure of both the nation’s creaking infrastructure and the severity of the drought gripping California there is the $5 shower. That’s how much Ian Roth, the owner of the Seagull Inn, a bed-and-breakfast…

The Lost Canyon Under Lake Powell

By Elizabeth Kolbert   08/09/21  
The scope of the spending outlined by Democrats is vast, reflecting the party’s grand ambitions to grow the size and reach of the federal government to a level not seen in decades. The measure paves…

Illegal cannabis growers are stealing water amid California’s drought, officials say

By Rachel Pannett  Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images   07/28/21  
California’s deepening drought is creating another big problem for authorities: water theft. Water thieves, many of them illegal marijuana growers, are tapping into fire hydrants and drilling unauthorized water wells, according to officials, threatening the…

Thousands of Central Valley farmers may lose access to surface water amid worsening drought

By Julia Wick  Photo: Gary Coronado   07/23/21  
As California endures an increasingly brutal second year of drought, state water regulators are considering an emergency order that would bar thousands of Central Valley farmers from using stream and river water to irrigate their…

Drone photos reveal the shocking truth of California’s parched landscape

By Brian Van Der Brug  Photo: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times   07/21/21  
As the West descends deeper into drought, climate and water experts are growing increasingly alarmed by California’s shriveling reservoirs. Photos of Lake Oroville, Folsom Lake, Trinity Lake and Lake Shasta, taken by Times photographer Brian van…

Extreme Drought Could Shut Down a Hydroelectric Power Plant In California

By Audrey Carleton   07/19/21  
Officials are preparing for the likelihood that California’s record breaking drought will come for its renewable energy stores. The West Coast state, which has been weathering wildfires, 126-year rainfall lows, and a historic heat dome, announced on Friday that it…

Scorched, Parched and Now Uninsurable: Climate Change Hits Wine Country

By Christopher Flavelle  Photo: Mike Kai Chen   07/18/21  
Last September, a wildfire tore through one of Dario Sattui’s Napa Valley wineries, destroying millions of dollars in property and equipment, along with 9,000 cases of wine. November brought a second disaster: Mr. Sattui realized…

The current drought is worldwide. Here’s how different places are fighting it

By Celina Tebor  Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times   07/16/21  
The world is facing unprecedented levels of drought. In the U.S., nearly half the mainland is currently afflicted, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The situation is especially dire in the Northwest, which is…

‘There Are No Winners Here’: Drought in the Klamath Basin Inflames a Decades-Old War Over Water and Fish

By Anne Marshall-Chalmers  Photo: Anne Marshall-Chalmers   07/16/21  
TULELAKE, Calif.—Joey Gentry hesitates before she drives through the fields of alfalfa and wheat that line the roads in the Klamath Basin. “Because I’m good and brown,” said Gentry, a member of the Klamath Tribes…

Officials Pull ‘Emergency Lever’ as Lake Powell Plunges Toward Dangerous New Low

By Molly Taft  Photo: Susan Montoya Bryan (AP)   07/16/21  
The latest megadrought alarm bell just went off in the West. The Bureau of Reclamation began emergency water releases from reservoirs upstream in the Colorado River this week in an effort to keep Lake Powell, the country’s second-largest reservoir,…

With drought worsening, should California have much tougher water restrictions?

By Ari Plachta  Photo: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times   07/15/21  
When Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Californians to voluntarily conserve water last week as he stood in front of the retreating shoreline at Lopez Lake in San Luis Obispo County, some must have had déjà vu. It was…

Lake Mead’s new lows put a Western lifeline in peril

By Jaweed Kaleem and Thomas Curwen  Photo: Allen J. Schaben , Los Angeles Times   07/15/21  
Eric Richins looked out from his pontoon boat to the shallows on the lake’s western edge. He squinted and paused as if he had come upon a foreign shore. For the first time in a…

6 Of The Most Unsustainable Cities, Analyzed

By Arthur Keith  Photo: Martin Adams on Unsplash   07/13/21  
Drought begets drought, so the saying goes. Extreme heat dries out the soil, which dries out the atmosphere. As a result, there is not enough moisture in the soil to help the formation of thunderstorms.…

Drought Hits the Southwest, and New Mexico’s Canals Run Dry

By Simon Romero  Photo: Ramsay de Give for NYT   07/13/21  
Acequias, the fabled irrigation ditches that are a cornerstone of New Mexican culture, have endured centuries of challenges. Can they survive the Southwest’s megadrought?

Reservoirs are drying up as consequences of the Western drought worsen

By Diana Leonard and Others  Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images   07/09/21  
Reservoir levels are dropping throughout the West, as the drought tightens its grip on the region and intense summer heat further stresses both water supply and the surrounding landscape. Many reservoirs are at or approaching…

How The West Went Dry

By Arthur Keith  Photo: Gemma Burgazzi   07/09/21  
To a farmer or rancher, nothing could be sweeter than the sound of an approaching storm. Dogs are terrified of thunderstorms. Like fireworks around the 4th of July, they shake and tremble and cower as…

‘We live in a desert. We have to act like it’: Las Vegas faces reality of drought

By Oliver Milman  Photo: David McNew/Getty Images   07/09/21  
Investigator Perry Kaye jammed the brakes of his government-issued vehicle to survey the offense. “Uh oh this doesn’t look too good. Let’s take a peek,” he said, exiting the car to handle what has become…

It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water?

By Somini Sengupta  Photo: Mike Kai Chen   06/28/21  
In America’s fruit and nut basket, water is now the most precious crop of all. It explains why, amid a historic drought parching much of the American West, a grower of premium sushi rice has…

The American West: Long on People, Short on Water

By Arthur Keith  Photo: Arthur Keith   06/26/21  
Have you ever been in the midst of writing (or reading) a story where the context changes so fast you constantly have to revise or question the data? Climate change is one of those topics.…

A drought meets its match

By Louis Sahagún  Photo: Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times   06/22/21  
Mechanical engineer Brent Yamasaki set out amid the recent blistering heat wave to take stock of the giant dams, pumps and pipes that support Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County, the largest storehouse of water…

What tree rings reveal about America’s megadrought

By Alvin Chang  Photo: Josh Edelson   06/17/21  
Last year, wildfires burned through hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the American west. These fires, extraordinary in size and intensity, are a symptom of a decades-long drought in the region

A problem Silicon Valley can’t solve: water

By Susanne Rust  Photo: Josh Edelson Associated Press   06/15/21  
California is known for its history of natural disasters, and in the Silicon Valley, two potential calamities — drought and earthquake risk — are converging to dry up water supplies in the hub of the…

Drought prompts state to cut off water to thousands of farms, water agencies

By Kurtis Alexander  Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images   06/15/21  
Thousands of farms and water agencies that rely on flows from California’s vast delta watershed, including some in the Bay Area, are being told to stop drawing water from its rivers and creeks because there’s…

How Severe Is the Western Drought? See For Yourself.

By Nadja Popovich   06/11/21  
An intense drought is gripping the American West. Extreme conditions are more widespread than at any point in at least 20 years, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the government’s official drought-tracking service.

The Western Drought Is Bad. Here’s What You Should Know About It.

By Henry Fountain  Photo: Patrick T. Fallon   06/04/21  
Answers to questions about the current situation in California and the Western half of the United States.

Amid Historic Drought, a New Water War in the West

By Mike Baker  Photo: Will Matsuda   06/01/21  
A drought crisis has erupted in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border, with fish dying en masse and farmers infuriated that they have been cut off from their main water source.

Three-quarters of California now in extreme drought — and wildfire season coming fast

By Alexandra Kelley  Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images   05/21/21  
After prolonged periods with little rainfall and snowpack, portions of the U.S. West are now experiencing severe drought, with states like California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona plagued with large swaths of drought.

No drought in nearly half of Colorado while major drought continues in some regions

By Spencer McKee  Photo Credit: lovleah (iStock).   05/20/21  
A map released by the United States Drought Monitor on Thursday shows that much of Colorado is no longer under drought conditions – 48.2 percent of the state, to be exact. Leading the charge out…

Severe Drought, Worsened by Climate Change, Ravages the American West

By Henry Fountain  Photo: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP   05/19/21  
Heat and shifting weather patterns have intensified wildfires and sharply reduced water supplies across the Southwest, the Pacific Coast and North Dakota.

Where are the wildflowers? Experts say the extreme drought is affecting more than just them.

By Frankie McLister   05/19/21  
Many cacti are blooming around southern Arizona right now, but the one thing that isn't is wildflowers. You can blame it on the drought. News 4 Tucson spoke to one avid hiker and he said…

California Farmers Facing Drought Are Choosing Empty Fields

By Daniela Sirtori-Cortina and Breanna T Bradham   05/18/21  
In some areas of California it’s so dry that farmers aren’t even bothering to plant crops this season. Growers north of San Francisco have begun pulling out of local farmers markets and produce-box programs. County…

Another dangerous fire season is looming in the Western U.S., and the drought-stricken region is headed for a water crisis

By Mojtaba Sadegh, Amir AghaKouchak and John Abatzoglou   05/14/21  
Just about every indicator of drought is flashing red across the western U.S. after a dry winter and warm early spring. The snowpack is at less than half of normal in much of the region.…

The Colorado River’s Dwindling Water Supply

By Luke Runyon  Photo: Ricardo Frantz on Unsplash   05/14/21  
The Colorado River that carved the Grand Canyon and now quenches the thirst of much of the American West is parched in a “megadrought.” Two key reservoirs are expected to drop to record low levels…

The Big Question: Can We Beat The Megadrought?

By Robert Kunzig  Photo by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images   05/11/21  
Nearly a century ago, the people who built Hoover Dam on the Colorado River were “inspired by a vision of lonely lands made fruitful,” as the inscription at the base of the flagpole on the…

Gavin Newsom declares drought emergency for most of California, announces relief plans

By Dale Kasler   05/10/21  
Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded his drought emergency declaration to 39 more counties Monday, underscoring the rapid deterioration of California’s water supply in recent weeks. The governor broadened his earlier drought order, which was limited to…

California drought forces 15m salmon to take unusual route to Pacific: by road

By AP  Photo: Justin Sullivan , Getty Images   04/30/21  
California officials will truck more than 15 million young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley agricultural region to the Pacific Ocean because projected river conditions show that the waterways the fish…

‘Firefighters Out There in the Snow’: Wildfires Rage Early in Parched West

By Simon Romero   04/30/21  
New Mexico’s first major wildfire of the year ignited this week near a campground where visitors can hike to view hundreds of prehistoric petroglyphs. After scorching nearly 6,000 acres in a matter of days, the…

Mitigating Climate Change in the American Southwest Includes Draining Lake Powell

By Craig Axford  Photo by Breanna Klemm   04/24/21  
The American Southwest (consisting of all or part of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) receives less precipitation than any other region in the United States. In his 1986 book Cadillac Desert, the environmental…

Drought in Mexico reaches critical levels as lakes dry up

By AP  Photo by Fernando Llano   04/22/21  
Drought conditions now cover 85 percent of Mexico, and residents of the nation’s central region said Thursday that lakes and reservoirs are simply drying up, including the country’s second-largest body of freshwater.

Wild donkeys and horses engineer water holes that help other species

By Jonathan Lambert  Photo: Petra Kaczensky   04/21/21  
Water drives the rhythms of desert life, but animals aren’t always helpless against the whims of weather. In the American Southwest, wild donkeys and horses often dig into the dusty sediment to reach cool, crystal…

Western U.S. may be entering its most severe drought in modern history

By Jeff Berardelli   04/12/21  
Extreme drought across the Western U.S. has become as reliable as a summer afternoon thunderstorm in Florida. And news headlines about drought in the West can seem a bit like a broken record, with some…

U.S. Drought Monitor Update for February 9, 2021

Photo from Pixabay.com   02/09/21  
According to the February 9, 2021, U.S. Drought MonitorModerate to exceptional drought covers 38.4% of the United States including Puerto Rico, moderate to exceptional drought covers 38.4% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a…

A “forever” drought takes shape in the West

By Jennifer A. Kingson  Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios   01/14/21  
The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the most days of "exceptional drought."

A river used to run through it: how New Mexico handles a dwindling Rio Grande

By Di Minardi  Photo: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP   01/12/21  
The Rio Grande used to flow freely, but now in Las Cruces, humans, fish and plants are vying for water in the arid landscape

Harsh Droughts Can Actually Start Over Oceans

By Robin Meadows  Photo by Justin Sullivan   11/23/20  
Droughts conjure images of vast expanses of hard, cracked soil and parched plants, but new research suggests that disastrous dry spells can develop over the wettest place of all: the ocean. Low-moisture air masses sometimes…

As Climate Change Drives Droughts, Water Conservation And Infrastructure Are Key

By Annie Ropeik  Photo by Annie Ropeik   10/16/20  
The bog behind Jen Kippin's house in Hooksett, New Hampshire, has never been this dry. Normally there’s ducks and frogs, and enough mud and water for her grandsons to lose their sneakers in. But right…