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Keep that rain coming

The recent rain has been great for mitigating the drought, but we still have a long way to go.

During the last week an arc of Texas beset by a historic drought for a year – stretching from San Antonio to Austin to Bryan to Houston – received between 2 and 6 inches of rain, capping a fairly wet three-month period.

Indeed, during the last 90 days, as a very dry pattern gave way to regular rain systems, Harris County has received about 125 to 150 percent of its normal rainfall level.

“Progress is being made,” against the drought said John Nieslen-Gammon, a Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist who is the state climatologist.

With an average of 15 inches across Harris County during the last three months – nearly equal to the total rain that fell in Houston in all of 2011 – the drought’s effect on agriculture has largely been eliminated, he said. What remains now is filling up reservoirs, aquifers and increasing the moisture levels of deep soils.

A couple of weeks ago I noted that Harris County was no longer in “exceptional” drought status. Our situation has improved since then. Here’s what the drought map for Texas looks like now:

Looking better, but still not good

If you compare it to the map I displayed in that previous post, you can see that Harris County is now almost entirely out of Extreme drought and now is merely in Severe drought. And now almost five percent of the state, all up north, is completely drought-free. On the dark side, the share of the state in Exceptional drought status has creeped up a bit; looks like things are getting worse down in South Texas. Overall it’s better, but we’re a long way from celebrating anything.

This winter has defied the expectations of forecasters, who expected the influence of the La NiƱa climate pattern in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to limit Texas rainfall as it did last winter.

Forecasters still believe the balance of winter and spring will be drier, and forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say through May, the odds of below normal precipitation are two to three times greater than those for above normal.

Just because we’re currently headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we will continue to do so. All we can do is hope. SciGuy has more.

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