Drought in Deep South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley as of January 15, 2008(click to enlarge)
Drought conditions continue for the Rio Grande Valley and Deep South Texas

Despite welcome rainfall on January 15th across the Rio Grande Valley, much of the area continues to remain below normal since september 2007. According to the Climate Prediction Center, Deep South Texas and the Rio Grade Valley have received only 25 percent or less of normal precipitation during this period. Even though yearly rainfall over much of deep south texas was above normal for 2007, the majority of the rainfall occurred during the first 6 months of the year. The onset of La Niña conditions during the late summer, among other patterns, has been a contributor to the lack of rainfall over the past few months. The area has also experienced one of the warmest autumns and early winters on record. Accordingly, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated moderate drought conditions had returned to the area as of January 8, 2008 (above). The drought conditions are mainly affecting agricultural interests, including pastures and grasslands.

Falcon and Amistad Reservoirs provide much of the water for the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Abundant rainfall over Deep South Texas and Northeast Mexico during the first half of 2007 allowed both reservoirs to increase their storage levels to over 80 percent of normal conservation. Currently, storage at Amistad Reservoir is at 86 percent of normal, while storage at Falcon Reservoir has decreased to 65 percent of normal.

The early abundant rainfall of 2007 allowed lush vegetation to grow across the area. The extreme dry conditions that followed since September has allowed the vegetation to dry and turn into ignitable fuel. The combination of these dry fuels, above normal temperatures, frequent moderate to strong winds, and occasional very low humidity has allowed for an increased risk of wildfire danger. Numerous wildfires have already occurred since November. According to the Texas Forest Service, burn bans are currently in effect for Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Jim Hogg and Brooks Counties. Residents in these counties are strongly urged to use extreme caution when disposing of smoking materials, and refrain from all outdoor burning activities. Remember, failure to abide by an outdoor burn ban may result in criminal prosecution.

According to CPC, soil moisture over much of the area is abnormally low. Evaporation rates are averaging a tenth to a quarter of an inch. Water demands for irrigation from local reservoirs will likely increase during the next several weeks as preparation for spring planting begins. According to the State of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, there are currently 4 public water systems in Hidalgo County And 1 public water system in Cameron county which are under mild rationing.


Outlook for January 18th through January 30th

"Winter" weather, Rio Grande Valley-style, is expected into the weekend of the 19th/20th, and even a bit more light rains will fall across the populated areas toward the coast on the 18th while temperatures settle between 10 and 20 degrees below average. Thereafter, current data suggest a return to near average temperatures to begin the week of January 21st. Recent long term trends suggest a continuation of near normal to below normal temperatures, and even chances for near average precipitation. Thus, while the longer term drought continues, the combination of generally cooler temperatures with more clouds than sunshine and the possibility of some rain should negate the possibility for additional increases in drought conditions.

One to two week precipitation forecast as of January 17 2008 (click to enlarge)
Rainfall forecast for January 24 to 30, 2008. Though forecast favors equal chances for rain, significant wetting rains may not occur.

The long range climate outlook for February and March 2008, derived from guidance from CPC, indicates that with moderate to strong La Niña conditions, among other patterns, prevailing through the Spring, below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures will be expected across all of Deep South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. The U.S. seasonal drought outlook (below) and other guidance indicates that drought conditions will persist or intensify. Check our website for further updates of this developing drought situation. For the latest reservoir information, check out the International Boundary and Water Commission's website .

Seasonal Drought Outlook, through March 2008
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