This week's Schroeder fire in the Black Hills is a stark reminder of just how volatile things can get in South Dakota when high winds mix with overly dry conditions on the ground.

But the Mount Rushmore State is hardly alone when it comes to a lack of moisture.

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Climate reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show that the warmest decade on record occurred between 1998 and 2018, resulting in over $1 billion in damages from weather and climate-related disasters.

So where do conditions in South Dakota rank compared to the rest of the country?

South Dakota Drought
Brad Pugh - CPC/NOAA

Stacker has the state ranked as the 18th driest in the U.S., with nearly half of the state's land (33,776 square miles/43.8 percent) is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions. That impacts more than one-third of the population.


  • Corson (All)
  • Campbell (Portions)
  • Dewey (Portions)
  • Perkins (Portions)
  • Walworth (Portions)
  • Ziebach (Portions)

All or parts of another 18 counties in the state, including Minnehaha, Lincoln, Turner, Clay, and Union are experiencing severe drought conditions.

Extreme dry conditions were the norm for South Dakota throughout the 2010s, with nearly one-third of the state suffering from exceptional drought at one point. That extended dry period was so severe that even with record-breaking moisture in 2020, nearly all of South Dakota is still abnormally dry.

As for the driest states in America, the Southwest is the most problematic.


  1. Arizona
  2. Nevada
  3. New Mexico
  4. Utah
  5. California
  6. Wyoming
  7. Colorado
  8. Idaho
  9. Oregon
  10. Hawaii

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