COLLEGE STATION - The pesky drought that has lasted since 2011 is still going strong for much of the state, and many lake and water reservoir levels remain below normal, says Texas A&M University professor John Nielsen-Gammon, who also serves as the State Climatologist.
Although some areas of Texas have received plentiful rains over the past several months, conditions from abnormally dry to exceptional drought still plague several areas of the state. The Dallas-Fort Worth area, Wichita Falls area and parts of the northern Panhandle are still far below normal, he reports.
“The bottom line is, much of Texas is still in a drought,” Nielsen-Gammon explains.
“We would need steady rains over much of the state to get water levels to their normal range. Even though temperatures have been below normal in recent weeks and parts of the state have received heavy rains, other regions of Texas remain dry, especially over the long term.”
The current drought has endured in Texas and much of the Southwest since 2011, causing water restrictions in many areas and wildfires in others.
Dallas’ Love Field recorded only 22.48 inches of rain last year, the sixth lowest total since 1940. The DFW area is still in a drought status, Nielsen-Gammon says.
Areas around Houston have fared better and remain normal to slightly below normal in average yearly rainfall, while the Wichita Falls area is still one of the hardest hit.
“The past four years have been the driest on record for the Wichita Falls area with an average of only 19.49 inches,” he adds.
“Amarillo’s recent rainfall has been near normal, but areas to the north of it are still very dry. The San Antonio area has fared better, but Austin has experienced a wide range of conditions. Several flash floods occurred during the past couple of years in and around Austin, but no such floods have replenished Austin’s Highland Lakes drinking water supply.”
The 90-day outlook for Texas is for increased odds of below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall for the state, but the odds are only tilted slightly, he notes.
“For example, it was believed an El Niño that has developed in the Pacific Ocean would do what it usually does – produce wetter-than-normal conditions and lower-than-normal temperatures. Texas has had some El Niño-type weather, but overall El Niño conditions are marginal at best.”
But he says the long-range outlook – for the next few years to a decade or more – still suggest that Texas will tend to remain on the dry side.
“It’s possible for widespread drought to redevelop, possibly even this summer if spring rains don’t pan out as usual,” he says. “Some water supplies are still very low, and normal amounts of rainfall won’t come close to ending the drought where the reservoir levels are most depleted.”