Our short-term drought is evolving into a longer-term issue. Looking back over the last ninety days the only good news is across portions of South Texas. Rainfall totals elsewhere have been dismal. We’ve seen less than five percent of average rainfall over the last three months across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas. Some locations have not seen any observed rainfall since October. The Concho Valley, Big Country, and North Texas have seen under half of the amount of rain usually seen during the same time period.
One can now see why drought conditions are continuing to deteriorate across a majority of the state. Nearly sixty-five percent of Texas is now officially in drought conditions. Only a small portion of Southeast Texas and South Texas are not abnormally dry or in a drought. The Southeast Texas portion of the ‘not in drought zone’ is mainly due to Harvey’s rainfall last year and a rain event a few weeks ago. Understand that if we don’t see appreciable rainfall in the coming weeks we’ll see drought conditions intrude into Southeast Texas.
Extreme drought conditions have expanded again this week across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas. Those regions have had literally no rainfall since early October. We’re looking at a period of over 100 days since any rainfall. Severe drought conditions are in Texoma in North Texas and the Hill Country. Agricultural interests are sweating it out and hoping this pattern changes by spring. Those with winter crops are out of luck, unfortunately.
The second short-term concern is the wildfire danger. Surface fuels are ridiculously dry and Energy Release Values (ERC) are way above average. Wildfires are able to spread quickly with ease on days where we’d typically have low fire danger. Add in one of our ‘wind makers’ and we have big problems. Our peak wildfire season doesn’t typically arrive until early March through mid-April. The concern is very high that we’re going to have at least one extreme/historical wildfire day this season. Folks really need to develop a wildfire plan – mainly know where to go if a fire approaches your location.
Here is the summary from Eric Luebehusen with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this week’s drought monitor.
“Extreme Drought (D3) expanded across much of northern Texas and western Oklahoma, with subsequent increases in D2 noted in central Texas and eastern Oklahoma. From Lubbock, Texas, northward into Oklahoma, little — if any — rain or snow has fallen over the past 90 days; the four-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was well below D4 levels (-2.0 or lower) in these locales. Despite the cooler season with minimal agricultural activity on the Plains, impacts were beginning to appear. In Oklahoma, the percent of winter wheat rated poor to very poor jumped from 10 percent at the end of November to 79 percent by the end of January, with 93 percent of the state’s topsoil moisture rated short to very short. In Texas, the lack of precipitation is reaching historic levels. According to the National Weather Service, February 7, 2018, marked the 117th consecutive day without measurable precipitation for Amarillo, shattering the previous mark of 75 days (records date back to 1892). In Lubbock, February 7 marked the 91st consecutive day without measurable precipitation, just 7 days shy of the 98-day benchmark. The situation on the southern Plains is rapidly becoming dire, and precipitation will be needed soon to prevent further expansion or intensification of drought.”
A weekend storm system could bring one-half inch to one inch of rain across Northeast Texas, East Texas, and Southeast Texas. Rainfall amounts will be lower farther west across North Texas and Central Texas. In terms of impactful weather, we may see some winter weather mischief across Texoma and North Texas. We’ll deal with that in separate blogs. Out in the extended range, there is some hope we’ll see a pattern change in about 8 days. Hopefully, we’ll see some increased rain chances.