Top 10 Driest Cities in the US: The Southwest US Dominates

Yuma driest us cities

Rainy days get you down? The answer appears to be to move to the Southwest United States. Cities in the Desert Southwest are some of the driest in the country, with average annual rainfall as little as three inches per year! We combed the data and picked out the 10 most driest cities in the US, which are pretty bone dry.

These cities see less than 10 inches of yearly rainfall, with most of the precipitation occurring in the wet season for the West, which generally occurs in the Winter. Otherwise, it’s sunny, dry, and very often quite warm in these areas.

For us, this is too dry, but we can understand if you disagree. For this list, we’ve considered any location with a population of 25,000 or more people a “city,” and used official precipitation data from NOAA. That would only change the list past our #1: Yuma is the driest city in the US regardless of the metric you use, but Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the largest cities on our list isn’t too far behind! Here’s our list.

See More Top Ten Lists Here

What are the Top 10 Driest Cities in the US?

  1. Yuma, AZ: 3.30″ annually
  2. Las Vegas, NV: 4.19″
  3. Bakersfield, CA: 6.47″
  4. Lancaster, CA: 7.38″
  5. Reno, NV: 7.40″
  6. Phoenix, AZ: 8.03″
  7. Yakima, WA: 8.25″
  8. Kingman, AZ: 8.39″
  9. Redmond, OR: 8.90″
  10. Grand Junction, CO: 9.42″

Why All The Driest Cities in the US are Out West

welcome to las vegas signPhoto: TellingPhoto -

As you can see, and unlike our list of the sunniest cities, the driest cities in the US are spread out not only across the Southwest but a significant portion of the interior Western US. But are the driest US cities to be found in the same area? It has to do with geography.

A series of mountain ranges line the West Coast of the US from north to south: the Cascades run through Washington southward into Oregon, the Sierra Nevadas through much of California, and the Rockies run through Montana through Arizona and New Mexico.

The driest places and cities tend to be found right on or near these mountain ranges: Las Vegas is between two of them; Yuma sits at the base of one; Reno and Bakersfield are both on a plain surrounded by the Sierra Nevada; Lancaster and Phoenix are both just outside the mountains; Yakima is in a valley between two ranges.

So, it’s evident that these mountains contribute to the dryness of these US cities. Here’s why.

These mountain ranges act as barriers to moist air coming from either West or east. The rising motion of the side of the mountain gives lift which helps form clouds and eventually precipitation. When this air comes down the other side of the mountain, the motion precludes upward development of clouds, making these locations typically drier and often hotter than those on the opposite side of the mountain.

This explains why areas of the West that you might expect to be rainier, like eastern Washington and Oregon, are often as dry as some desert areas in the Southwest.

Why Yuma, AZ is So Hot, Dry, and Sunny

Muggins Mountain outside of Yuma, AZPhoto: Brian -
Muggins Mountain outside of Yuma, AZ.

Yuma, Arizon has appeared on our list numerous times: it is our sunniest US city, one of the warmest places in America, and now the driest US city. That suggests that Yuma’s weather is pretty much dry, sunny, and warm year-round, right? Well, not exactly. Yuma does have an arid climate, with some of the driest conditions in North America along its Colorado River frontage near Mexico. It is hot out there for much of the year, but it’s even drier to the east and north (we don’t have weather stations there, and thus no weather data to confirm this).

Yuma sits on a plain surrounded by mountains that block precipitation from the West. Thus, Yuma has dry conditions for most of the year, but some rain falls during winter months when cold fronts are more common, bringing in some much-needed moisture. But still, one could argue that Yuma has some of the countries nicest weather year-round, thanks to its dry, sunny, and warm climate that lasts most of the year.

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