Last September, Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielson-Gammon said that Texas as a whole could be in store for a 10 to 15 year drought. After soaking Winter rains, is that forecast still valid?
Dr. Nielson-Gammon, back in September 2011 said, "patterns don't tend to change very rapidly, so we may be in this pattern the next five to fifteen years. That could mean a series of droughts or potentially one long drought."
After the early year rains added over 20 inches of much needed moisture to the soil, lakes and rivers of the Brazos Valley, the official Drought Monitor finally cleared the region of drought. But after a below normal April, where only 0.5" to 0.6" of rain fell, the Brazos Valley is once again going dry. In fact, as of Thursday morning, Austin County and parts of Washington and Waller Counties are now officially considered to be in a "Moderate Drought" yet again.
So, if we are sitting just under 10 inches above normal for yearly rainfall, why are we headed back into a drought? Drought is something that has to be looked at on the large scale. While conditions were beneficial at the beginning of the year, the area wasn't that far removed from dangerously dry conditions. With the hot and dry summer months on the way, many fear that the entire area will slip back into at least a Moderate if not Severe Drought yet again.
Dr. Doug Welsh, with Texas Agrilife Extension, put it best when it comes to Texas by saying, "We don't know what is going to happen again this summer...because we know we are always seven days away from drought, and we are going there again."
The good news is that La Nina, cooler waters in the Pacific that caused the weather pattern over Texas to run dry, has officially left as of April. The summer pattern is expected to be neutral but then possible shift into an El Nino type set-up by Winter. That means a cooler and possibly wet outlook for the later part of 2012 could be in store.
Will the area go back into an "Exceptional Drought" -- the worst classification of drought -- anytime soon? That will be left for the summer to tell. While the outlook for this winter is an optimistic one, there is still speculation that we could easily go right back into a similar drought, as that of 2011, by 2013 or 2014 -- meaning that five to fifteen year outlook wouldn't be too far off the mark.
Only time will tell.