We’re well into summer with the typical heat and humidity that accompanies it. We’ve seen bouts of ‘popcorn’ convection during the afternoon hours this past week. Most of that activity remains too sparse for more than hyperlocal drought relief. Though the last month has actually resulted in several notable changes in drought conditions across Texas. Before we get into those changes let’s review the latest drought monitor as of yesterday’s release. Data used in these drought monitors was taken at 7 AM CT on Tuesday. Rains from Tuesday through Thursday were not included. They’ll be counted in next week’s update.
Latest Drought Monitor for Texas
As has been the case since 2017 some of the worst drought conditions are across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas. Extreme drought continues across parts of those three regions. A newcomer to the ‘extreme drought’ level is parts of the Edwards Plateau – mainly from Del Rio and Brackettville south to Eagle Pass. A tidbit of good news for this week is that we no longer have any exceptional drought designations in Texas. We previously saw that across the Texas Panhandle.
Drought improvement in the hardest hit regions this year
An examination of the one-month comparison shows we’ve had a dynamic month of precipitation excess and precipitation deficits. The winners are those in the Texas Panhandle, Permian Basin, and our coastal neighbors from the Rio Grande Valley through the Coastal Plains and Southeast Texas. Several days of rain – including some significant flooding – along the coast in June removed all signs of drought. The Coastal Plains has been in severe to extreme drought one month ago, but all that was erased after a foot or more of rain.
While the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Permian Basin have not had major rains this last month there have been rains. Several nocturnal thunderstorm events brought soaking rains to the northern Texas Panhandle in June. Those rains also helped to a lesser extent across parts of West Texas and the Permian Basin. Moderate to severe drought continues across the southern half of the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, into Northwest Texas, but the rains over the last month have brought some small relief. We need a lot more rain to totally eradicate the drought.
Recent drought development across North Texas
On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve seen a fairly significant rainfall deficit across parts of the Concho Valley, Big Country, Hill Country, North Texas, and Texoma over the last four to six weeks. Moderate to severe drought has developed over the aforementioned regions. Long-term drought impacts have yet to develop in earnest, but there have definitely been impacts felt. Dry soil moisture levels allow surface temperatures to warm more quickly. Surface fuels are dry and some are even beginning to go dormant.
The fire season that just won’t end
Hot temperatures, dry surface fuels, and even light winds combine to produce an elevated wildfire threat. We’ve seen numerous wildfires over the last ten days across Texoma, North Texas, and across Northeast Texas. These fires are unusually resistant to initial attack activities for the summer months. Several fires have become large (burning hundreds to even thousands of acres, as one did in Palo Pinto County). Summer usually isn’t the time where larger fires occur in Texas, but our winter/spring fire season never really ended. Afternoon thunderstorms may temporarily reduce fire danger where rains fall, but hot temperatures will dry surface fuels out quickly afterward.
Rainfall Outlook for the Upcoming Week
Longer-range outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center give the southern half of Texas a below-average chance of wetting rains next week. A combination of monsoonal moisture and a potential cool front in the second half of next week may allow for a neutral to above-average chance of rain across the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma. Many questions remain regarding that possibility so we’ll refrain from getting optimistic.