The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released this morning, shows that more than three-quarters of Texas is now in at least a “moderate” drought, and nearly half the state is in a “severe” or worse drought.
Now to be clear, conditions are still far better than 13 months ago, when the great 2011 drought peaked. At the time 100 percent of Texas was in a moderate drought, 99 percent in a severe drought, and 88 percent in an exceptional drought.
But conditions have gotten quite a bit worse since May, when the drought was at bay for about half of Texas, including the Houston metro area. Now the majority of greater Houston has returned to drought conditions.
Although November isn’t over, it’s possible Texas could end with its driest October and November period since 1950, says Victor Murphy, a climate specialist with the Southern Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service.
Statewide average rainfall for Texas in November 2012 should be about 0.5 inches versus a normal of nearly 2 inches, he said. That would make the October/November time period total about 1.3 to 1.4 inches, or about 30 percent of the state’s normal of 4.60 inches.
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The current October-November period may end up being drier than the same period in 2010, when 1.85 inches of rain fell. That launched the state in the great drought of 2011.
“This is not a good way to be moving into winter,” Murphy said.
Also of concern is the latest winter outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which finds that without an El Niño pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean as expected, Texas can no longer look for a wetter-than-normal winter.
The greater Houston region, NOAA says, has an equal chance of above- or below-normal rainfall, and a 40 percent chance of having significantly above-normal temperatures this winter.
Last year’s drought primarily affected Texas and Oklahoma, but this year it has spread to much of the midwestern United States.
More than 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states are gripped by some level of drought, erasing two weeks of improvement, the Drought Monitor reported, with widespread agricultural effects.
We got lucky at the beginning of the year, when winter and spring were far rainier than we had any right to expect. We better hope we get at least some of that luck this winter and spring. Now would be a good time for us all to start conserving water again.