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Drought Conditions Improve Slightly Across the Northern High Plains

Updated: April 19, 2018

Next Issuance: May 2018


Recent moisture has helped to improve drought conditions slightly across northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. Since January 1 2018, precipitation has been above average and temperatures have been well below average. Snow cover ranges from little to no snow pack across the plains to around  20 inches of snow in the higher elevations of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains. 

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor depicts:

  • Moderate (D1) drought conditions covered Perkins, most of Meade, Ziebach, western Haakon, eastern Pennington, and northeastern Harding Counties.
  • Abnormally dry (D0) conditions covered the rest of Perkins, Meade, Haakon, eastern Harding Counties, as well as central Pennington, eastern Butte, far northeastern Custer, Jackson, and northwestern Mellette Counties.

U.S. Drought Monitor

U.S. Drought Monitor High Plains U.S. Drought Monitor 

Summary of Impacts

Long-term drought impacts continue to be reported by producers, including the slow recovery of pasture conditions.

Climate Summary

During the Fall of 2017, precipitation was below average and temperatures were above average across northeast Wyoming and western South Dakota. However, since December 1, all areas have seen above average precipitation and below average temperatures.

In February, temperatures were well below average and precipitation was above average. In fact, it was one of the coldest, wettest, and snowiest Februarys' on record for most locations. In March, temperatures continued to be well below average with above average precipitation. 

So far, the cold and wet trend has continued into April. Temperatures so far in April are at least 6 to 12 degrees below average. Precipitation is above average by a half-inch to an inch. Average high temperatures for April are in the lower to middle 50s with average lows in the lower 30s. Average precipitation typically ranges from around two inches on the plains to over three inches in the Black Hills.

For 2018 precipitation amounts so far, click here.

Precipitation and Temperature Outlook

Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have been warming for the past two months, indicating a trend toward neutral El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions. For the Northern Plains, this pattern typically favors below average temperatures and above average precipitation through the early spring before trending to a warmer and drier pattern by early summer.

Climate Prediction Center Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks

The outlook for May calls for a greater chance for below average temperatures and above average precipitation.  

The three month outlook for May, June, and July calls colder and wetter than average conditions in early May trending toward warmer and drier conditions by July. 

 Temperature Outlook Precipitation Outlook

Climate Prediction Center U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook 

The U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook indicates drought conditions will improve through the spring.

Seasonal Drought Outlook 

Hydrologic Summary and Outlook

According to the U.S. Geological Survey 28-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of the year indicates normal to above normal conditions across much of the area.

Map of 28-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of the year (United States)

Links to hydrologic data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Reclamation can be found below.

Related Drought Links


The drought monitor is a multi-agency effort involving NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), State and Regional Climate Centers, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Information for this statement has been gathered from a number of different federal, state, and local agencies including the NWS and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Observing Sites, State Cooperative Extension Services, United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and many more. 

Questions or Comments

If you have any questions or comments about this drought information please contact,

Melissa Smith
Service Hydrologist


Matthew Bunkers
Science and Operations Office

National Weather Service
300 East Signal Drive
Rapid City South Dakota 57701
605-341-9271 ext. 493