Despite relief, drought will continue during summer


Although Texas is experiencing less severe drought conditions from a year ago, it will likely continue to be in a drought this summer. The Tropical Season could provide enough rainfall to keep small rivers in the Travis County area flowing and the drought at a steady level. (Photo courtesy of Lower Colorado River Authority)

Max Bridges

Texas is still abnormally dry and will likely continue to be in a drought throughout the summer, despite less severe drought conditions.

Currently, 97.37 percent of Texas is facing abnormally dry conditions, the lowest level of drought on the U.S Drought Monitor scale. Only .73 percent of Texas is suffering exceptional drought conditions, the highest level of drought. A year ago, the percentage was 43.97.

Steve Smart, meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office for Austin and San Antonio, said drought conditions could still change dramatically depending on rainfall, a hard figure to accurately predict.

“Texas is still in a drought, there is no question about that,” Smart said. “It all depends on the weather and on how much rain we get.”

According to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, the rain Texas received during the winter and spring seasons helped decrease the highest drought intensity ranking of D4, exceptional, to a range of D1 – D0, moderately to exceptionally dry. Rainfall earlier this year was enough for inflows during the first three months of 2012 to approach historical averages, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, and even surpass the historical average for the month of March. In the summer months this is expected to stagnate.

Farmers and other operations relying on water will still have to find alternative sources of water, just not as much as last year, Smart said.

Entering the tropical season, which officially began today, Texas could see small amounts of rainfall in the form of easterly waves, which are rain clouds moving in from the east, serving as temporary relief from the drought, Smart said.

This could provide just enough rain to keep small rivers in Travis County area flowing, and keep the drought at a steady level, but Texas most likely won’t be out of the drought before the end of summer, Smart said.