Flooding Rains Continue to Erode Multi-Year Drought
Drought continues to erode from east to west. Our 46 counties in North Texas are completely free of severe drought (D2) for the first time since May 2012.
Numerous rain events this spring have added considerable water to many area reservoirs. Just 3 months ago, the water supply lakes for Dallas and Fort Worth were collectively less than two thirds full but are now over 95% capacity.
Although some lakes remain low, most of which are in western portions of North Texas, the majority of the region's reservoirs are above conservation capacity. Lake Mineral Wells doubled its storage during April and is full for the first time since early 2012. Lake Palo Pinto was less than 10% full (20 feet low) during April, but it too has filled. However, Hubbard Creek Reservoir, a water supply lake for the city of Abilene, remains critically low.
With above normal precipitation expected to persist into the upcoming summer, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook projects the remaining moderate drought (D1) in western portions of North Texas will likely be gone within the next few months. The summer outlook favors both above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures.
Current Drought Conditions
Widespread significant rainfall will maintain minimal fire weather concerns. The growing season is in full swing. Perennials, including warm season grasses, can effectively hold moisture long after rain events. When green, this vegetation limits fire initiation and spread.
Even though there are no formal burn bans in effect within North or Central Texas, it is still important to be vigilant about fire usage. Avoid open flames near dry vegetation, and assure all coals and embers are fully extinguished.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is a drought statistic specifically designed to assess fire danger.
April rainfall totals were well above normal across nearly all of North and Central Texas. Although year-to-date totals through the first 4 months of 2016 are generally above normal, long term deficits persist. While the short term rainfall has turned the region green, these multi-year deficits continue to manifest themselves in low lake levels and in the deep soil moisture needed to recharge the region's aquifers.
Lake Storage - Percent of Conservation Volume (May 21, 2015)
Numerous rain events have maintained adequate and even surplus topsoil moisture, enhancing the runoff into the creeks and streams that feed the major river/reservoir systems. Lake Ray Hubbard fell to an all-time record low level in December, but after gaining more than 30 billion gallons of water between mid-April and mid-May, it is full, its highest level in 3 years.
Although most lakes are now full, a handful of reservoirs remain low. More rainfall is needed within these lakes' watersheds to reverse several years of drought.
For current lake level information (including pool height, departure from conservation pool height, and percent of conservation volume), visit Water Data for Texas.
After nearly 5 years of significant water restrictions, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) began allowing twice-per-week watering on May 1. Sprinklers and other irrigation systems are still be prohibited between 10 am and 6 pm (April 1 to October 31). The NTMWD serves 1.6 million customers east and northeast of the city of Dallas.
In April 2014, the Fort Worth City Council made permanent its twice-per-week limit on landscape watering. Only hand watering is allowed between 10 am and 6 pm. Arlington, also within the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) service area, has similar restrictions but is not ready to make them permanent. Dallas has made permanent its twice-per-week limit, but the restriction on daytime watering is limited to the warm season (April 1 to October 31). Since water restrictions vary considerably throughout the Metroplex, residents should keep informed with the current guidelines from their municipality or water utility provider.
The Brazos River Authority (BRA) has improved to a Stage 1 drought watch, and additional improvement is expected in the coming weeks. Proctor Lake, which was at only one third of its conservation volume at the beginning of May, has risen into its flood pool.
The rainfall this spring will likely delay the onset of summer heat. This happens for several reasons:
As a result, the mild and wet weather is expected to persist into the upcoming summer. However, it's important to iterate that the outlooks below are based on 3-month averages. In other words, bouts of hot weather will likely still occur even if the summer is mild overall. Our current spring bears some resemblance to 2004 and 2007, which both featured mild and wet summers. The following stats are based on DFW Airport's climate record:
Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks for Summer
The temperature outlook presents the likelihood the 3-month average temperature will differ significantly from normal. Orange areas denote parts of the country with an increased chance of being in the warmest tercile, or the warmest third of historical data. Similarly, blue areas denote parts of the country that are projected to have an elevated chance of being in the coolest tercile. Where neither color is shaded, there is no strong signal to determine an accentuated chance of being in either the warmest or coolest tercile. This does not mean that near normal temperatures are expected, but simply that the period is just as likely to be in the warmest tercile as it is to be in the coolest tercile.
The precipitation outlook presents the likelihood of receiving a precipitation total that differs significantly from normal. Green areas denote parts of the country with an increased chance of being in the wettest tercile, or the wettest third of historical data. Similarly, brown areas denote parts of the country that are projected to have an elevated chance of being in the driest tercile. Where neither color is shaded, there is no strong signal to determine an accentuated chance of being in either the driest or wettest tercile. This does not mean that near normal precipitation is expected, but simply that the period is just as likely to be in the wettest tercile as it is to be in the driest tercile.
With El Niño conditions expected to strengthen this year, projections for above normal precipitation will prevail into 2016. As a result, drought conditions are unlikely to return the next several months.
Precipitation Outlooks for the Forthcoming Cold Season
With above normal precipitation expected to persist into the upcoming summer, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook projects the remaining moderate drought (D1) in western portions of North Texas will likely be gone within the next few months.