- Most of Texas remains in the worst drought category, D-4.
- Conditions could persist into 2012, or longer.
- La Nina is to blame.
If you didn’t like the summer of 2011, chances look pretty good that you aren’t going to be happy with 2012, either. And 2013, ’14, and ’15 could add to your discontent.
“This past year we had an unusual drought,” says Texas A&M professor of meteorology and state climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon. “And we have a strong possibility of it continuing.”
Nielsen-Gammon, speaking at the recent Beef Financial Management Conference in Amarillo, said most of Texas remains in the worst drought category, D-4, with only a few areas “around the edge” in less dire straits.
He said the drought overall is so bad that the current rating system may not be broad enough to cover it. “We might need a D-5 or a D-6 designation,” he said. “And the longer a drought goes on the worse it gets.”
He said average rainfall for the state for the last 6 months was only 5 inches. “We’ve been running from 35 percent to 40 percent of normal rainfall for the past 11 or 12 months.”
The drought of 2011 (It actually dates back to last fall.) ranks as the worst in recorded history for much of Texas, eclipsing 1917, 1934 and 1956. And most of the state recorded drought conditions that would be in the top ten worst droughts in history.
The difference, so far, between the current drought and the infamous 1956 drought, is duration. Worst in history
“In 1956, they were experiencing long-term statewide drought. But 2011 represents the worst short-term drought in Texas history,” Nielsen-Gammon said
Analysts have to go back 100 years to find anything close to 2011. “We’ve had 12 consecutive months with below average rainfall. September was the seventh consecutive driest month on record.”
He said parts of East Texas remain in a drought that has lasted four years. Recent rains have provided a bit of hope that the drought may be ending but consistent rain will be necessary to break the drought. Nielsen-Gammon said some North Texas Counties had rain last May and that far West Texas had recent “monsoon” rains. “But most of the state is still dry. Some pockets have had less than 10 percent of normal rainfall for the past six months. Most of the state has received less than 25 percent of normal rainfall during that time.”
He said intense heat from June through August, “well above what’s been observed before,” added to the problem.