A few weeks ago, rancher Noah Brooks said what was troubling him most was the weather.
“The fact that it didn’t rain, June, July, August but maybe three times, that this community runs around cattle and feed and if we don’t get some rain, we’re in big big trouble, and I think that we’re drying out,” he said.
Brooks lives in Clark, Colorado. But the conditions he describes are persistent throughout the region.
The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly all of Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico in some form of drought.
“The weak monsoon season really stands out as well as the extreme heat that we’ve experienced all summer long and moving into the fall months as well,” said David Simeral, a climatologist based at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada.
Simeral is also one of ten authors behind the National Drought Monitor, although he did not author the latest report. Simeral said early and rapid snowpack melting in the spring also contributed to the dry conditions.
Simeral says the four corners region is especially parched.
Currently, thirteen percent of Utah is in exceptional drought, the most dire classification.
“These drought conditions are not expected to let up, so for our farmers and ranchers, that’s the growing concern,” said Anastasia Thayer, an agricultural and natural resource specialist at Utah State University.
Nevada and New Mexico are also showing drought stress. The southwest is reeling from a monsoon season letdown.
An extended outlook from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows dry conditions will persist for much of the region through the end of the year.
The Drought Monitor is produced jointly by federal agencies and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.