State’s Drought Is Easing Somewhat – But For How Long?

Oct 24, 2014

Texas’ lingering drought that started in 2011 has shown signs of easing in many parts of the state, but several areas are still in moderate-to-severe drought status, says State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, who also serves as a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University.

About 70 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry. He notes that Texas is now in the second part of its “rainy season,” but that time period is quickly winding down. The wettest months of the year on average in Texas are May and June, and the next wettest are September and October.

“This month, rainfall has been above normal in eastern Texas and parts of central Texas and the northern Panhandle, and below elsewhere,” Nielsen-Gammon explains.

“Last month, the wettest areas were in west and south Texas. After a dry winter and early spring, rainfall statewide has hovered close to normal. This sustained period of near-normal rainfall has improved the drought situation across most of the state, especially for agricultural concerns. About three-fourths of the state was in drought at the end of April, compared to about one-half of the state now.”

That has been good news for many lake levels, which have resumed to near-normal status in recent months.

But not everyone has seen such good news.

“Some places are worse off than before,” Nielsen-Gammon adds.

“North-central Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, experienced a relatively dry summer, as did parts of the southern Hill Country. Pockets of extreme to exceptional drought remain in those areas, as well as in parts of the Panhandle where drought recovery has been slow.”

While much of the country has received adequate rainfall over the last few months, California and other areas have not been so lucky. California, like Texas in 2011, is experiencing its worst drought ever, which is important because the state accounts for about one-half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. California remains the No.1 agricultural state in the country.

The future outlook for Texas remains mixed, he says.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and other groups still believe an El Niño will be developing in the central Pacific Ocean in the next few months, which usually signals wetter conditions over much of the U.S. But experts say that if an El Niño does develop, it will likely be a weak one, which could hamper rainfall development.

“The outlook is for increased chances of cool and wet conditions this winter,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

“Keep in mind, though, that is no guarantee. If Texas does end up with a moderately wet winter, we should see continued drought improvement. The problem is that to produce lots of runoff and improve streamflow and reservoir conditions, you need either to have rain so intense that it can’t soak into the ground fast enough, or a sustained period of rain that gets the soil saturated and keeps going.”


Media contact: John Nielsen-Gammon at (979) 862-2248 or or Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 945-4644 or