Paul Yura, with the National Weather Service, San Antonio and Austin, says predictions of continued widespread drought into this summer appear to have missed the mark.
Back in February, Yura spoke at a Bayer CropScience Crop Consultant’s Conference in San Antonio and indicated that much of the Southwest was still in line for “persistent drought,” into summer.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes since February,” Yura said in a Farm Press interview. “Forecasts were off,” he said. “The climate models were predicting a pretty dry spring.”
He said North Texas, in particular, has defied predictions. “North Texas is pretty well off and is currently not in drought status.”
He said a corridor to the east and running from Dallas to Tulsa is currently not in drought. “But as you go west into the Oklahoma Panhandle, and into Southwest Oklahoma, we’re still seeing moderate to severe drought conditions.” Wichita Falls also remains dry as does the Texas Panhandle and much of South Texas, especially the San Angelo area.
The Hill Country (in Central Texas) has received rain, he said. But lakes remain at perilously low levels. “Travis is from 40 feet to 50 feet low,” he said. Other lakes are equally low. O.C. Fisher Lake near San Angelo is extremely low. “They need a flood out that way,” he said.
“A lot of other lakes have not come up at all. We’ve had two or three widespread rains in the Hill Country and lake levels rose only 2 or 3 feet.”
Low lake levels could spell trouble for a lot of towns and cities. “We need rain into this summer or a lot of places will run out of water,” Yura said.
Recent rains that dropped several inches on Central and North Texas didn’t completely miss West Texas, he said, but amounts were considerably less. The Texas High Plains received only about a half-inch from a March 18 and 19 rainfall that covered much of the region. Another one-tenth fell a day later.
“South Texas and West Texas remain in exceptional drought status,” Yura said. “The Lubbock area is still exceptionally dry. But we’re better off then we have been. Instead of a bulls eye over the region for the next three or four months, we seem to be headed back to a more typical rainfall pattern. La Nina is about gone or is gone so we expect more normal rainfall into the summer.”
That doesn’t mean no drought, he warned. “We can always have drought conditions in some areas but a widespread drought is less likely. We expect a more typical weather pattern, whatever that is.”
Projections indicate a more normal hurricane season as well with 11 or 12 named storms. “We depend on those for summer rain along the Texas Coast.”
He said short-range predictions are promising for the part of the Texas wheat crop that had ample rainfall to produce good stands and good growth through the winter (mostly North and Central Texas). “The 6- to 10-day outlook indicates normal temperatures. So does the 8-to 14-day projection. We don’t expect a massive late Arctic cold snap. We also see an above average outlook for rain over the next 8- to 14-day periods.”
Yura said climate science may have missed the long-range weather outlook and if so it was a good time to miss one. Long-term weather predictions are difficult with available science. “We sometimes still have difficulty predicting 7 to 10 days out and with El Nino and La Nina, sometimes it’s a crap shoot. The science is simply not there yet. Anything can change.”