Large parts of the United States are in a drought, with some areas escalating from extreme to exceptional drought levels, as highlighted in Figure 1. The drought is concentrated in the west, notably in California and Nevada where two dry winters in a row have resulted in large precipitation deficits. Extremely low rainfall, warmer temperatures and unusually rapid snowmelt from a declining snowpack have contributed to well below average dam storage levels.

Figure 1: US Drought Monitor

There is no relief in sight where the drought is expected to extend further in the west (see Figure 2). The latest Climate Prediction Center forecast shows much of the U.S. will see above-average temperatures through to August (see Figure 3). Parts of the Southwest U.S., where the drought will persist, will see the highest chances of extreme temperatures during the upcoming summer months.

Figure 2: US Seasonal Drought Outlook
  • Nearly 52% of the western U.S. is in “extreme” or “exceptional drought”
  • North Dakota the conditions over the last seven months have been the driest in history (dating back 127 years)
  • California’s last seven months has been the driest in the past 40 years and has been the fifth driest period since 1895. In addition to supplying water for its more than 40 million residents, California is the country’s largest fruit and vegetable producing region
  • The US National Snow and Ice Data Center has recently stated that snowpack supplies 73% of California’s water needs however snow cover is now the lowest in the 21-year satellite record
  • The dry conditions extend into Canada which has helped lift canola prices to near record levels in Australia at over $700 per tonne
Figure 3: Three-month Temperature Outlook (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)