While heavy rains helped alleviate severe drought conditions across some regions in the United States in recent weeks, abnormally hot weather worsened conditions across others. The state enduring the worst drought is Utah, according to Drought Monitor data for the week ending July 12. As much as 65.2% of land area in the state is in exceptional drought (D4) — the maximum level of drought.
Large sections of the United States remain in the grip of historic drought levels — some the worst seen in centuries.
For example, in Oregon, soil moisture, streamflow, and precipitation measurements indicate that drought conditions are among the worst since 1895. In Washington, rangeland and pasture conditions are reported to be far worse this year than in any year this century.
In Idaho, where some areas saw a relatively drastic uptick in drought categories, from D1 to D3, the drought monitor reported storage levels and water use priorities associated with the Big Lost River have been limited to early 1884 priorities. Montana recorded precipitation less than 25% of normal in June, historically the wettest month of the year in the state.
Drought conditions are inherently difficult to measure and change frequently, even within states. To provide context, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed drought statistics for the last 12 months for every county in the nation from the Drought Severity and Coverage Index, a product of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The 51 counties on this list are in just eight states: Texas (11), Arizona (8), New Mexico (8), Utah (8), California (7), Colorado (5), North Dakota (2), and Nevada (2).
These areas have had the most consecutive days with 100% of land area in extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought over the 12 months through this Monday. Drought severity is measured from D0 (no drought) to D4 (exceptional drought) for each week of the year.
To be included in our ranking, a county must have had at least one week of exceptional drought. The percentage of land area currently in exceptional drought, the number of weeks each county had 50% or more of land area in exceptional drought, and the number of weeks each county had any amount of extreme or exceptional drought over the past 12 months were computed by 24/7 Wall St. using data from the Drought Monitor. Total population for 2019 is from the American Community Survey 2019 5-Year Estimates.