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. 


California was hit with 12 feet of snow. Is it enough to ease the drought?

By Joshua Partlow 03/04/23
More than 12 feet of snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada, shutting down national parks and burying neighborhoods. But the flakes have also felt miraculous, dramatically improving the outlook for California's historic drought....
Read more

If we want to save the planet, we have to save the elephants

By Cyril Christo 02/16/23
When CEOs and business leaders arrived in the isolated Swiss town, climate change was on the table. But the absence of conversations about elephants and global biodiversity—crucial components of our ecosystems—were glaring inconsistencies in what…
Read more

California lost 36 million trees to drought last year

By Angely Mercado 02/07/23
Aerial surveys conducted from July 2022 to October 2022 surveyed 39.6 million acres (over 61,000 square miles) of tree canopy across California. The Forest Service found about 2.6 million acres (over 3,100 square miles) of…
Read more

The “Law of the River” at the heart of the Colorado River crisis

By Hayley Smith and Ian James 02/03/23
It’s a crisis nearly 100 years in the making: Seven states — all reliant on a single mighty river as a vital source of water — failed to reach an agreement this week on how…
Read more

California is alone in battle over Colorado River water cuts

By Ian James 02/02/23
After a key deadline passed this week without an agreement on how to address the Colorado River’s crisis, California is now sharply at odds with six other states over how to take less water from…
Read more

A California town’s wastewater is helping it battle drought

By Naoki Nitta 01/23/23
Standing under a shady tree drooping with pomegranates late last year, Brad Simmons, a retired metal fabricator who has lived in Healdsburg, California, for 57 years, showed off his backyard orchard. Along with the apple,…
Read more

How Pinal County farmers are dealing with historic cuts to Arizona’s Colorado River water supply

By Whitney Clark 01/18/23
Farming thousands of acres of alfalfa, Bermuda grass, and more, isn’t just a job for Jace Miller: it’s in his blood. “My great-great-grandfather came and homesteaded in gilbert in 1919 and began farming,” Miller said.…
Read more

Arizona city cuts off a neighborhood’s water supply amid drought

By Joshua Partlow 01/16/23
The survival — or at least the basic sustenance — of hundreds in a desert community amid the horse ranches and golf courses outside Phoenix now rests on a 54-year-old man with a plastic bucket…
Read more

A Look Back: 2022’s Temperature Record

2022 effectively tied for Earth’s 5th warmest year since 1880, and the last 9 consecutive years have been the warmest 9 on record. NASA looks back at how heat was expressed in different ways around…
Read more

Arizona Is in a Race to the Bottom of Its Water Wells, With Saudi Arabia’s Help

By Natalie Koch 12/26/22
Arizona’s water is running worryingly low. Amid the worst drought in more than a millennium, which has left communities across the state with barren wells, the state is depleting what remains of its precious groundwater.…
Read more

Amid drought, Arizona contemplates a fraught idea: Piping in water from Mexico

By Joshua Partlow 12/23/22
As Arizona's water supply from the Colorado River dwindles, it is studying a $5 billion project to desalinate ocean water in Mexico and pump it 200 miles across the border....
Read more

Disaster scenarios raise the stakes for Colorado River negotiations

By Joshua Partlow 12/17/22
Those responsible for divvying up the Colorado River's dwindling supply are warning that unprecedented shortages could be coming to farms and cities in the West....
Read more


High temperatures exacerbated by climate change made 2022 Northern Hemisphere droughts more likely

Western Central Europe, North America, China, and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere faced water shortages, extreme heat, and soil moisture drought conditions throughout the summer of 2022

Drought in the Western United States

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) categorizes drought in a region according to soil moisture, streamflow, and precipitation levels. Regional designations can vary and are primarily based on historical weather patterns. Drought can adversely affect many…

Images of change

Disappearing Lake Mead, Nevada-Arizona Border

Climate Change in National Parks

Climate Change Response Program Natural Resource Stewardship and Science. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior. of glaciers and ice sheets. And of those that remain, most are shrinking at an accelerated rate. These…

Drought in numbers

The report, an authoritative compendium of drought-related information and data, helps inform negotiations of one of several decisions by UNCCD’s 196 member states, to be issued 20 May at the conclusion of COP15.

Western Drought 2020-2022

Climate change is a major contributor to the prolonged and intensifying drought that has impacted the western US since early 2020, as well as the underlying megadrought that has been ongoing since 2000.[1] Rising temperatures…

What the Western US megadrought tells us about climate change

A 22-year megadrought has made the Western United States the driest it has been since at least the year 800, according to a new study. A megadrought is essentially a prolonged drought that lasts for…

Explainer: ‘Desertification’ and the role of climate change

While the term may bring to mind the windswept sand dunes of the Sahara or the vast salt pans of the Kalahari, it’s an issue that reaches far beyond those living in and around the…

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 Scientists Forecast High Temperatures Into the Fall

By Henry Fountain   09/16/21  
After a summer of blistering heat across much of the country, the hotter-than-normal conditions that have contributed to severe drought across the West are forecast to continue into the fall, scientists with the National Oceanic…
Read more

‘Drought is the norm:’ California’s water crisis becomes perpetual

By Kumail Afshar and Siena Swift   09/16/21  
California residents are used to drought conditions, with shorter showers encouraged by teachers and conservationists, ads paid for by the state supporting abstaining from watering lawns and rainy days few and far between. But 5C…
Read more

Growing Uncertainty in the Central Valley

By Anna Wiener   09/15/21  
One weekend in late June, I drove with friends to Yolo County, California, a rural area in the Sacramento Valley. It was the second day of a multiday heat wave, and temperatures approached the triple…
Read more

California’s disappearing salmon

By Scott Wilson   09/13/21  
For centuries, spring-run Chinook salmon, among California’s most iconic fish, would rest for weeks in these historically cold waters after their brutal upstream journey. Then they would lay eggs and, finally, perish to complete one…
Read more

When Hard Jobs Turn Hazardous

By Sergio Olmos   09/05/21  
In early summer, a day laborer laying irrigation lines at a plant nursery just south of Portland, Ore., collapsed to the ground and died. His official cause of death was declared “heat related.”
Read more

The water supply of the San Luis Valley faces pressure as never before

By Alamosa Citizen and Mark Obmascik   08/29/21  
They all remember when the San Luis Valley brimmed with water. South of San Luis, Ronda Lobato raced the rising floodwaters in San Francisco Creek every spring to fill sandbags that protected her grandparents’ farm.
Read more

One California City’s Creative Drought Fix

By Soumya Karlamangla   08/26/21  
Take a drive through this picture-perfect wine country town and you’ll start to spot them, unsubtle symbols of our state’s extreme drought.
Read more

Water Crisis In The West, v5.0 — The Colorado River Story

By Arthur Keith   08/25/21  
Well, folks, it happened, but it comes as no surprise. The Federal Government has officially declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time in history.
Read more

‘The Worst Thing I Can Ever Remember’: How Drought Is Crushing Ranchers

By Henry Fountain   08/25/21  
Darrell Rice stood in a field of corn he’d planted in early June, to be harvested in the fall and chopped up to feed the hundreds of cows and calves he raises in central North…
Read more

Drought and Climate Change Shift Tree Disease in Sierra Nevada

By Kat Kerlin   08/24/21  
Even pathogens have their limits. When it gets too hot or too dry, some pathogens — like many living things — search for cooler, wetter and more hospitable climes. Ecologists have questioned if a warming,…
Read more

The incredible shrinking Colorado River

By Jonathan Thompson   08/23/21  
One of the most visible signs of the state of the West’s water supply is the big bathtub ring around the sandstone rim of Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir. Whenever the massive hydrological system that…
Read more

Western Drought Will Last Into Fall or Longer

By Henry Fountain   08/19/21  
The severe drought that has gripped much of the western half of the United States in spring and summer is likely to continue at least into late fall, government forecasters said Thursday.
Read more

Climate change and droughts: What’s the connection?

By Tiffany Means   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…
Read more

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

By Henry Fountain   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…
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Lindsay Huth and Taylor Umlauf   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…
Read more

Small Towns Grow Desperate for Water in California

By Thomas Fuller   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…
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Rachel Pannett   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…
Read more

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

By Julia Wick   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…
Read more

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

By Brian Van Der Brug   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…
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Christopher Flavelle   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…
Read more

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

By Celina Tebor   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…
Read more

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

By 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…
Read more

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

By Molly Taft   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,…
Read more

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

By Ari Plachta   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…
Read more

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

By Jaweed Kaleem and Thomas Curwen   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…
Read more

6 Of The Most Unsustainable Cities, Analyzed

By Arthur Keith   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.…
Read more

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

By Simon Romero   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?
Read more

Reservoirs are drying up as consequences of the Western drought worsen

By Diana Leonard and Others   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…
Read more

How The West Went Dry

By Arthur Keith   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…
Read more

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

By Oliver Milman   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…
Read more

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

By Somini Sengupta   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…
Read more

The American West: Long on People, Short on Water

By 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.…
Read more

The American West: Long on People, Short on Water

By 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.…
Read more

A drought meets its match

By Louis Sahagún   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…
Read more

What tree rings reveal about America’s megadrought

By Alvin Chang   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
Read more

A problem Silicon Valley can’t solve: water

By Susanne Rust   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…
Read more

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

By Kurtis Alexander   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…
Read more

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.
Read more

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

By Henry Fountain   06/04/21  
Answers to questions about the current situation in California and the Western half of the United States.
Read more

Amid Historic Drought, a New Water War in the West

By Mike Baker   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.
Read more

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

By Alexandra Kelley   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.
Read more

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

By Spencer McKee   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…
Read more

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

By Henry Fountain   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.
Read more

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…
Read more

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…
Read more

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.…
Read more

The Colorado River’s Dwindling Water Supply

By Luke Runyon   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…
Read more