Thu May 31, 2012
Texas Drought: Better But Not Over
The worst drought in Texas history isn’t over but it’s not as bad – at least for now.
Most of Central Texas is classified as “abnormally dry.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor released a new drought map today and it shows most of the area is under the least severe stage of drought. The western part of Travis County and much of the hill country is a little bit drier – considered in “moderate” drought.
The conditions are much better than they were a year ago. Then, Travis County was under the two highest drought stages: extreme and exceptional.
The recovery so far is thanks in major part to above-average rainfall received during the first four months of the year.
“If we can sort of stay status quo by getting average rainfall through early fall, I would think that when the next cool season comes around, we should start seeing continued improvement,” said Victor Murphy, climate program manager for the National Weather Service Southern Region.
Looking at NOAA’s three-month outlook for precipitation doesn’t provide an answer either way.
“There’s just an equal chance of precipitation being above normal as there is being below normal. So unfortunately we don’t really have an answer of what’s going to come in the future. You could pretty much flip a coin and be just as right,” said Luigi Romolo, regional climatologist with the Southern Regional Climate Center.
Romolo says the area is very drought-sensitive so it doesn’t take a lot of dryness to fall back into drought.
State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon says Texas is still “hovering on the edge” between recovery and relapse.
Rain could be in the forecast for Central Texas today. Our chances are up to about 50-percent.
In the longer term, some are predicting that an El Nino weather pattern will form in the late summer or fall, bringing with it a wet winter.
But lake levels are still below average. The Lower Colorado River Authority says Lake Buchanan is more than 16 feet down and Lake Travis is down nearly 29 feet.
Murphy says water reservoir levels are the last to recover after the drought.
Nielsen-Gammon predicts Texas could be largely recovered from the drought by the end of the year.