Drought and Climate for June 2018: Drought persists in Southwest

by Curtis Riganti


During June, warmer than normal temperatures were common in the central two-thirds of the United States, while cooler conditions occurred in parts of the Northeast. Precipitation compared to June normals was more variable across the United States. The wettest areas were in southern Montana, the middle Missouri River Valley, parts of the Ohio River Valley, the Lower Rio Grande River Valley, and northern Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania. Drier conditions occurred in central and north Texas, northwest Louisiana, southeast Kansas and northwest Missouri, northern Lower Michigan, northern Utah, and portions of Colorado. National coverage of moderate drought increased from 26.42 to 29.72 percent, severe drought coverage slightly decreased from 16.92 to 16.44 percent, extreme drought coverage decreased from 9.24 to 8.33 percent, and exceptional drought coverage slightly decreased from 2.09 to 1.88 percent.

Drought Outlook

During July, drought is forecast to develop or persist from north Texas to the Middle Mississippi River Valley, while drought improvement or removal is forecast over parts of northeast Texas and Louisiana. Drought is forecast to persist in the Southwest, though some improvement is likely as the monsoon season begins in Arizona, southern Utah, far southeast California, southeast Nevada, and the Four Corners area. Farther north, drought development and persistence is likely in Oregon, western Washington, and southwest Idaho. Drought development and persistence is also forecast to take place in eastern New York and New England.


During June, warmer than normal temperatures were common in the central two-thirds of the United States, while cooler conditions occurred in parts of the Northeast. Some of the warmest temperatures occurred from Kansas to North Dakota (2 to 8 degrees above normal), in central and west Texas (4 to 8 degrees above normal), and in Utah, northern Arizona, southern Nevada, and New Mexico (2 to 8 degrees above normal). Cooler than normal temperatures occurred in northern Vermont and northern Maine (3 degrees below normal or cooler).


The wettest areas during June included northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota, far northern Wisconsin, northwest Wyoming, southern Montana, the Lower Rio Grande River Valley, northern Virginia and northern Georgia, western Maryland, and southwest Pennsylvania. Drier conditions occurred in central and north Texas, northwest Louisiana, southeast Kansas and northwest Missouri, southeast Colorado, and central North Carolina and South Carolina.

Access the latest monthly drought outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

The two maps above are from the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Find these and other products related to the U.S. Drought Monitor on the USDM website.

Regional Overviews


Rainfall and temperatures in June in the Northeast were somewhat varied. Above-normal precipitation fell in parts of western Maryland and southwest Pennsylvania, while drier than normal conditions prevailed in parts of central and western New York and portions of eastern Massachusetts, southern Maine, and central and northern New Hampshire. Slightly warmer than normal conditions (temperature departures of 1-4 degrees) occurred in much of West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania. Elsewhere, temperatures generally were near or below normal, with the coolest conditions taking place in northern Vermont and northern Maine, where temperatures 3 degrees below normal or cooler occurred. During June, moderate drought developed in southern New England and covered 5.88 percent of the Northeast by July 3.


June in the Southeast was generally warmer than normal (with the exception of far northern Virginia and some parts of the Florida Peninsula), while precipitation departures varied. Central North Carolina and South Carolina were generally dry, while northern Virginia and northern Georgia were quite wet in June. The warmest conditions during June, with temperatures reaching or exceeding 3 degrees above normal, took place in the Carolinas, northern Georgia, and parts of Alabama. While isolated areas were abnormally dry at the beginning of July, no drought areas were present.


During June, drier than normal conditions prevailed over central north Texas and other parts of central Texas, as well as parts of Arkansas and northwest Louisiana. Wet conditions occurred from the Corpus Christi area southward to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Most of the South experienced warmer than normal temperatures during June. The warmest areas in central and west Texas were 4 to 8 degrees warmer than normal for June. During June, moderate drought coverage increased from 26.46 to 41.74 percent, severe drought coverage increased from 16.47 to 16.81 percent, extreme drought coverage decreased from 7.90 to 4.59 percent, and exceptional drought coverage decreased from 1.90 to 0.29 percent.


During June, above-normal precipitation fell in parts of Iowa and Minnesota, particularly in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. Wetter conditions also prevailed in far northern Wisconsin and the western Michigan Upper Peninsula. The Lower Ohio River Valley also received above-normal rainfall. Northern Lower Michigan and western Missouri received below-normal rainfall for the month. Much of the region saw temperatures from 2 to 6 degrees warmer than normal, with the exception of eastern Wisconsin and most of Michigan. At the end of the month, moderate drought coverage had expanded from 3.6 to 6.89 percent, and severe drought coverage had increased from 0.21 to 2.68 percent.

High Plains

Precipitation in Nebraska and the Dakotas was mostly near or above normal for June. Wetter than normal conditions also occurred. Dry conditions prevailed in southeast Kansas and parts of southeast Colorado. Generally wet conditions also occurred in northwest Wyoming. Temperatures were generally 2 to 8 degrees warmer than normal from Kansas to North Dakota, while warm conditions also prevailed in Colorado. More variable temperatures occurred in Wyoming during the month. During June, moderate drought coverage decreased from 36.18 to 25.85 percent, severe drought coverage decreased from 19.7 to 15.9 percent, extreme drought coverage dropped from 9.44 to 8.37 percent, and exceptional drought coverage slightly decreased from 1.83 to 1.80 percent.


While much of the West moved into its dry season during June, wetter conditions took place in much of southern Montana into southeast Idaho, as well as southern Arizona and parts of western New Mexico. The Salt Lake City area received below-normal precipitation for the month, and some dryness continued in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. Widespread warmth was found in Utah, northern Arizona, southern Nevada, and New Mexico, where temperatures for June ranged from 2 to 8 degrees above normal. Cooler than normal conditions occurred in parts of the Idaho Panhandle and in northeast Washington. During June, moderate drought coverage increased from 44.05 to 48.13 percent, severe drought coverage slightly decreased from 31.5 to 31.39 percent, severe drought coverage slightly decreased from 18.83 to 18.7 percent, and exceptional drought coverage slightly increased from 4.35 to 4.65 percent.

Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico

Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico are not currently in drought, but abnormally dry conditions have been noted in southeastern Alaska, much of Hawaii, and southern Puerto Rico.

Movers and Shakers for June 2018
StatePercent Area
May. 29, 2018
Percent Area
Jun. 26, 2018
Biggest increase in drought
Biggest decrease in drought
New Mexico99.3595.80Moderate3.55
New Mexico89.3986.55Severe2.84
New Mexico62.8657.73Extreme5.13
New Mexico18.2718.02Exceptional0.25
North Dakota53.309.06Moderate44.24
North Dakota13.951.85Severe12.10
South Dakota21.1712.96Moderate8.21

June 2018 impact summary: Southwestern U.S. under numerous fire and water restrictions

by Denise Gutzmer

The Four Corners region of the Southwest was the epicenter of exceptional drought in the United States, with fire restrictions widespread as the summer heated up, wildfires flared and the Fourth of July holiday season neared.  Extreme fire conditions led more national forests to close to visitors.  Water supplies were not as robust as they could be, prompting some communities to enact water restrictions to cope with reduced supplies. 

The NDMC added 257 impacts to the Drought Impact Reporter in June, with 63 for Texas, documenting crop damage and vegetation drying out earlier than usual.  Colorado and New Mexico followed with 45 and 25 impacts, respectively, listing numerous fire restrictions as the drought primed the region for wildfires.

Drought parching Texas crops

Drought was harsh in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains in early June, parching crops and drying up pastures, and it is expected to keep the cotton from germinating.  The dry weather in parts of the state kept crops and pastures from growing at a normal rate, prompting growers to irrigate where possible. 

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network observers noted many instances of stressed vegetation turning brown for lack of rain.

Texas Crop and Weather Report - June 5, 2018, by Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Today (College Station, Texas), June 5, 2018

Colorado wildfires lead to fire restrictions

Extreme and exceptional drought in the southern part of Colorado had most counties under fire and fireworks restrictions as several wildfires burned.  The 416 Fire had people on edge as winds continued to drive flames across an arid landscape.  The 416 Fire began June 1, burned more than 51,000 acres, and was 37 percent contained a month later on July 2.  The heightened fire danger led officials to close the San Juan National Forest on June 12 until rains from Hurricane Bud brought enough moisture to lower the fire danger, allowing the forest to reopen on June 21.  Full containment of the blaze was not expected until the end of July. 

San Juan National Forest to close Tuesday because of fire danger, The Associated Press, Fort Collins Coloradoan (Colorado), June 11, 2018

San Juan National Forest near Durango reopens as officials urge caution amid dry conditions, by The Associated Press, Fort Collins Coloradoan (Colorado), June 21, 2018

416 fire on InciWeb

Wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona force closure of large chunks of forest, by Trevor Hughes, USA Today (McLean, Virginia), June 12, 2018 

Water supplies low in southern Colorado

After a winter of poor snowfall, relatively low water supplies in parts of Colorado triggered reduced water allotments in southwest Colorado, where dire conditions meant hay was not growing, hay supplies were very short, and producers were selling cattle.

The headwaters of the Rio Grande River in southern Colorado were flowing exceedingly slowly, with one tributary already dried up, meaning there will be little to no water for famers to use.  State water authorities expect that the main stem of the river will not even flow into New Mexico this summer.

Hay shortage in Southwest Colorado could hit ranchers hard, by Jonathan Romeo, The Cortez Journal (Colorado), June 24, 2018

Vanishing Rio Grande puts pressure on San Luis Valley farmers during extreme drought, by Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, June 22, 2018

Fire restrictions common, forest closed in New Mexico

In addition to many fire and fireworks restrictions across New Mexico, most of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico was closed, because of intense drought and heightened fire danger in the region. The closure meant that all recreational activities, including camping and hiking, were prohibited.

Low water supplies challenged growers in New Mexico, too, forcing farmers to use less water and grow fewer crops as rivers and irrigation systems carry less water.  Reports of rivers drying up in the central part of the state worried growers in the north, who feared that would be their fate soon as stream flows slowed.  Water rationing began in the spring, but there still was no way to stretch the water to meet farmers’ needs. 

Carson National Forest closes indefinitely, by Sarah Halasz Graham, Santa Fe New Mexican, June 25, 2018

Drought challenges Northern New Mexico farmers, by Andy Stiny, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 26, 2018


For more details, see the Drought Impact Reporter.

The images above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.