Everything You Need to Know About the Texas Drought December 29 2013

How Long Has the Current Drought Been Going On?

The majority of Texas is currently experiencing drought. Most of the state has been under drought conditions for three years.

State Climatologist John-Nielsen Gammon has warned that Texas’ could be in the midst of a drought worse than the drought of record in the 1950s. 2011 was the driest year ever for Texas, with an average of only 14.8 inches of rain. 2011 also set new lows for rainfall for March through May, and again from June through August. The high summer temperatures increased evaporation, further lowering river and lake levels.

The drought began in October 2010. The state experienced a short and rainy respite in the winter and spring of 2012, but by the fall of 2012 dry conditions had returned to much of the state. Those persisted until late in the summer of 2013, when a sustained rainy period lowered the percentage of the state experiencing drought.

That doesn’t mean that the drought is over. As of Oct. 28, 2013 Although only .12% of the state is in “exceptional drought,” the worst stage, over 90% of Texas is still in some form of drought conditions. The state’s reservoirs are only 60.6% full.

What Is Causing the Drought?

The main culprit of the intense 2011 dryness was La Niña, a weather pattern where the surface temperatures are cooler in the Pacific. This in turn creates drier, warmer weather in the southern U.S. (You may also know her counterpart, El Niño, which generally has the opposite effect.) La Niña sticks around for a year, sometimes longer, and tends to return once every few years. (The last La Niña was in 2007, but it was a much lighter one.)

An El Niño weather patten was predicted to bring some relief to the state in the winter of 2012-2013, but it failed to appear. The state climatologist predicted abnormally dry weather and higher than average temperatures through summer 2013, which could make the drought worse than the drought of record in the 1950s.

In February 2013, the state climatologist told the Texas Legislature that high temperatures related to climate change have exacerbated the drought. He said that the state’s average temperature has increased by an average of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s.

Maps of the Drought

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is released each week. The maps below show how the drought has progressed, beginning in October 2010 to what could arguably be the peak of the drought, the first week of October 2011, and then to the first week of February 2012:

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