Drought Update: No Improvement Here, But El Nino is Coming

Photo by Robert Burns/Texas Agrilife

Larry Lambert and his grandson, Noah, cut hay near Weston, north of Dallas, in the August heat.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows no signs of improvement for much of Texas, and some portions of Central Texas have moved from moderate to severe drought.

Overall, the state is in much, much better shape than a year ago, when nearly 80 percent of Texas was in the worst stage of drought, “exceptional.” Less than one percent of the state is at that level now.

But despite a wet winter and some good rain events since, rainfall averages from June and July combined were a bit lower than normal for the state. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new seasonal drought outlook says that in western parts of the state, dry conditions are are likely to “persist or intensify,” while in Central and East Texas, some improvement is possible over the next few months.

Farmers and ranchers are keeping a watchful eye on rain and weather conditions. Mostly, they’re seeing a lot of heat. On August 13, 15 high-temperature records were broken. “The heat has been hard on already stressed crops,” the Texas Agrilife Extension writes in its latest crop and weather outlook. “All dryland cotton has been abandoned in Hardeman County, as well as a quarter of the irrigated cotton.”  An Agrilife extension agent in the county said they’ve had four straight 112-degree days and “near-record” heat over the past few weeks.

But as the La Nina weather pattern leaves and her El Nino counterpart enters, Texas could be in for a wetter fall.

“The developing El Niño episode, expected to last through the winter, could begin to bring above-normal precipitation to parts of the southern and eastern states late in the period,” NOAA says. They expect it to begin in September.

In the dry meantime, burn bans have been issued again. In Central Texas, Travis, Williamson, Hays and Burnet Counties are all prohibiting outdoor fires.

Laura Rice of KUT News contributed reporting to this article.

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