Temperatures have generally been below-average for portions of January. Those cold temperatures have not negated a continued precipitation deficit. It has now been 105 days since Amarillo received measurable rain. The rest of the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas are not in much better shape. The result of a multi-month lack of rainfall is extreme drought conditions and the threat of fast-moving wildfires.
New Drought Monitor
Moderate to locally severe drought conditions extend southeast into the Big Country, the Hill Country, the Concho Valley, and North Texas. Moderate drought continues in East Texas, in the Coastal Plains and portions of the Middle Texas Coast, and in the Rio Grande Valley. It is important to emphasize that even with the historic rains from Harvey last year, rainfall over the last 30-60 days has been scarce in the Coastal Plains and Southeast Texas. The lack of recent rainfall is causing surface fuels to become dry and increasing the threat of wildfires. Those of you who monitor local news have probably noticed an uptick in wildfires across Texas over the last week.
Week to week changes and looking back over the last 3 months
The one-week drought monitor change shows that we have had numerous locations fall farther into drought conditions. Only a small sliver of far Southeast Texas saw minor improvement this week. Storms earlier in the week across Northeast Texas and East Texas did produce some rain. Rain totals were not high enough for a noticeable improvement in the drought monitor.
One can really see the rapid development of drought conditions when looking at a three-month change. The hardest hit region is the Texas Panhandle and Northwest Texas. They went from no drought whatsoever to extreme drought conditions in the past ninety days. Agricultural interests are being hit hard and one also has to worry about the fire weather season.
We’re still one to two months away from the typical peak of our wildfire season – and we’ve already had several 1000+ acre fires from the Texas Panhandle and West Texas to North Texas this week alone. We are going to have serious problems soon if we don’t get appreciable rainfall. I’m really concerned we could be looking at a particularly destructive wildfire season if we don’t get precipitation in the western half of Texas.
Looking ahead over the next week
Looking ahead at the next five days does show some chance for light precipitation along and east of Highway 281 – or roughly across the eastern half of Texas. Far Southeast Texas may receive over an inch of rain with higher amounts just east of the state line. However – for most rain totals are forecast to remain below a one-half inch. Like this past week that would help alleviate further drought development, but wouldn’t do much to reduce drought conditions already in place.
Farther west it’s going to be another dry upcoming week with several days of very high wildfire danger. A pattern change in the first week of February may bring some much-needed moisture farther west, but climatology doesn’t favor much in the way of wetting weather until we get closer to March.