Remember how wet and rainy it was earlier this year? It ain’t like that now, though we do have some rain coming later this week.
After an uncharacteristically wet early-summer across Texas, the Lone Star state’s weather has turned dry since early August.
An estimated 14 million Texans are now living in drought-affected areas, with Houston being the only major metro area with reasonably moist soils.
But even Houston is starting to feel the pinch. Most parts of the region have received just about a quarter of an inch of rain during the last four weeks.
Three months ago less than 1 percent of Texas was in a drought, today nearly 50 percent of the state is. Along with the upper Texas coast, only the Panhandle, far west Texas and South Texas are free of drought.
“Many in the agricultural industries are already dealing with another drought,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, and the state’s climatologist. “The dry conditions have not lasted long enough to make too much of a dent in water supplies, though.”
This overall dry pattern could change during the final 10 days of the month, as forecast models indicate a more southwesterly flow that would be more conducive to showers.
Texas typically has wetter and cooler winters when El Niño develops in the Pacific Ocean.
However, when particularly strong El Niños develop,which are currently happening, that does not mean an extra wet upcoming winter for Texas, Nielsen-Gammon said.
“The two strongest El Niños, as strong as the one presently in place, were among the near-normal El Niños rather than the wet ones,” he said. “So just because this El Niño is super-strong doesn’t mean that rainfall will be super-heavy.”
However, even normal rains during the winter should be enough to quench the state’s developing drought.
Let’s hope so, because anything resembling what we went through in 2011 would be devastating. Not much more we can do about it right now, but a little basic water conservation would be helpful and is never a bad idea. And let’s hope the system that’s coming our way brings plenty of the wet stuff.