Drought Information


The multi-year drought persists, but an emerging El Niño may bring relief.

 

The passage of Tropical Storm Hermine (September 7-8, 2010) marked the unofficial beginning of our current drought, which is now 4 years in duration.

Although the agricultural drought has seen occasional reprieves, the hydrologic drought has steadily worsened across much of the region.  At 28 feet below conservation, Hubbard Creek Reservoir is less than 16% full.  Also in the Brazos basin is Lake Palo Pinto, which is less than 15% of its conservation volume.  Lake Nocona and Lake Ray Hubbard are at or near all-time record low levels.  Some reservoirs benefited from summer rainfall, but the vast majority ended the season with less water.

Drought conditions are generally worse in areas west of the I-35 corridor.  Conditions range from abnormally dry (D0) in East Texas to extreme drought in Fort Worth and areas to the west.  Exceptional drought (D4) persists in the Possum Kingdom area.  Possum Kingdom Lake is at its lowest level in over 40 years.

The equatorial Pacific warmed rapidly during late spring and early summer, but this warming suddenly lost its momentum during July.  Sea surface temperatures have begun warming again in recent weeks, and El Niño conditions are expected to take hold during the coming months.  As a result, long range outlooks for late 2014 and early 2015 favor above normal precipitation, which could ease drought conditions across the region.

  


Current Drought Conditions

  

U.S. Drought Monitor

U.S. Drought Monitor - North and Central Texas

U.S. Drought Monitor

 


Fire Danger

  

In many areas, warm season rainfall has been beneficial at times.  While this has reduced fire weather concerns, it has also resulted in growth that could serve as fuel for wildfires during the upcoming cold season.  Where warm season rainfall has been insufficient, vegetation remains stressed and could be conducive to fire initiation and spread throughout autumn, particularly on days with strong winds and low humidity.

Climatologically, fall is a wet season between the drier summer and winter.  Warm season growth typically results from autumn rainfall, maintaining minimal fire weather concerns well beyond the rain event.  The primary fire season for North and Central Texas generally does not begin until after the first killing freeze.  Freezing temperatures send warm season vegetation into dormancy.  As this vegetation dries out, it can serve as fuel for wildfires throughout the cold season.

Even though significant fire weather concerns are not anticipated this fall, it is still important to be vigilant about fire usage even if a formal burn ban is not in effect for your area.  Many outdoor activities (such as grilling) involve a risk of starting wildfires.  The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 4200 outdoor fires and another 1500 structure fires result from charcoal grills, causing $30 million in property damage annually.  Avoid open flames near dry vegetation, and assure all coals and embers are fully extinguished.

 

Texas Outdoor Burn Bans

Keetch-Byram Drought Index     

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is a drought statistic specifically designed to assess fire danger.

 


Agricultural Impacts

 

Texas Crop Condition and Progress Report
audio clip of report

U.S. Agriculture in Drought

 


Precipitation Deficits

  

Aside from a couple of localized heavy rain events in North Central Texas, August was generally dry across the region.  For portions of Central Texas, August was the second consecutive month with minimal rainfall.  At Waco Regional Airport, only 1.13" of rain fell during July and August.

Throughout much of the region, year-to-date precipitation totals are below normal.  Deficits over the last 47 months (3 years and 11 months) vary widely but exceed 40 inches in many areas.

 

Year-to-Date Departure from Normal Precipitation (through September 9)

Year-to-Date Departures from Normal Precipitation (January 1 - September 9, 2014)

  

Airport Sites

  August 2014 Year-to-Date
(January - August 2014)
October 2010 - August 2014
  observed
amount
departure
from normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
DFW Airport 4.34 +2.43 -8.20 66 -34.85 75
Waco 0.98 -1.07 -1.58 93 -14.45 89
Dallas Love Field 3.26 +1.39 -8.93 63 -33.44 77
Fort Worth Meacham 0.26 -1.58 -12.69 48 -42.78 70
Dallas Executive 1.05 -2.52 -12.30 55 -46.73 71
Fort Worth Alliance 1.10 -1.41 -9.46 62 -40.72 72
Arlington 2.83 +0.86 -11.91 52 -39.71 73
Denton 0.82 -0.95 -7.65 70 -43.73 71
McKinney 0.87 -1.08 -10.51 59 -48.06 69
Terrell 1.16 -0.96 -11.00 59 -44.39 72
Corsicana 1.77 -0.34 -4.31 83 -25.69 84
Mineral Wells 3.31 +1.07 -5.83 73 -33.67 73

 

Cooperative Observers

  August 2014 Year-to-Date
(January - August 2014)
October 2010 - August 2014
  observed
amount
departure
from normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
Alvarado 1.64 -0.61 -7.34 70 -37.54 74
Alvord 1.43 -0.71 -6.82 72 -39.10 73
Aquilla 0.36 -1.80 -6.12 75 -22.06 84
Arlington 1.39 -0.40 -12.11 54 not available
Athens 1.07 -1.16 -7.27 74 -26.91 84
Bardwell Dam 2.18 -0.19 -4.45 82 -27.98 82
Benbrook Dam 0.50 -1.75 -9.93 57 -39.22 72
Bonham 2.09 -0.07 -10.61 65 not available
Bonita 1.06 -1.11 -6.88 72 -34.91 76
Breckenridge 1.37 -0.70 -12.14 41 -33.56 71
Bremond 1.87 -0.20 -6.19 75 -28.99 81
Bridgeport 3.41 +1.23 -3.93 83 -34.61 75
Burleson 3.21 +0.85 -6.18 75 -38.94 73
Centerville 1.70 -1.26 -1.44 95 -28.83 83
Cleburne 2.72 +0.74 -4.89 80 -40.87 72
Cooper 1.18 -0.82 -3.33 88 -27.69 84
Corsicana 1.12 -1.08 -0.09 100 -10.44 93
Cranfills Gap 1.12 -1.53 -7.98 66 -36.88 72
Crawford 1.48 -0.89 -2.02 91 -30.00 78
Cresson 1.34 -1.25 -3.76 84 -28.43 79
  August 2014 August
(January - August 2014)
October 2010 - August 2014
  observed
amount
departure
from normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
Decatur 2.57 -0.18 -3.37 87 -37.68 76
Denton 1.83 -0.76 -3.73 85 -36.76 75
Ferris 1.28 -0.81 -9.24 64 -43.00 72
Forestburg 2.97 +0.51 -9.31 60 not available
Fort Worth NWS 1.85 +0.33 -10.72 57 -47.07 68
Frisco 1.83 -0.31 -7.48 73 -38.59 76
Gainesville 2.73 +0.72 -4.88 82 -32.07 81
Goldthwaite 1.10 -1.17 -5.13 76 -30.63 74
Graham 2.76 +0.51 -8.41 60 -34.84 72
Grapevine Dam 3.17 +1.02 -8.48 66 -31.83 79
Greenville 2.54 +0.23 -2.97 90 -37.74 79
Hillsboro 0.10 -2.99 -8.97 65 -39.80 73
Itasca 2.62 +0.19 -2.58 90 -39.04 75
Jacksboro 4.16 +1.93 -7.12 68 -32.86 75
Joe Pool Lake 2.92 +0.75 -10.64 60 -45.14 72
Justin 1.77 -0.81 -7.72 71 -37.66 76
Lake Bridgeport 2.84 +0.41 -12.04 51 -38.25 73
Lake Tawakoni 1.50 -0.58 -7.80 73 -41.96 76
Lavon Dam 2.44 +0.46 -7.62 71 -37.68 76
Marlin 1.62 -1.28 -4.93 81 -26.43 83
  August 2014 Year-to-Date
(January - August 2014)
October 2010 - August 2014
  observed
amount
departure
from normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
Maypearl 2.45 +0.17 -6.36 75 not available
Midlothian 1.58 -0.87 -7.64 71 -48.97 69
Muenster 1.78 -0.66 -5.45 78 -27.36 81
Navarro Mills Dam 2.39 +0.11 -4.56 82 -20.82 86
Palestine 2.38 +0.54 +0.81 103 not available
Paris 1.36 -0.52 -4.60 84 -42.34 77
Proctor Dam 1.42 -1.28 -10.15 55 -31.89 75
Roanoke 2.38 -0.10 -7.31 73 -43.37 73
Rosser 1.98 -0.21 -4.44 83 -30.12 81
Sherman 1.26 -1.12 -10.76 62 -41.06 76
Stephenville 2.34 -0.11 -6.22 71 -19.42 84
Stillhouse Hollow 0.29 -2.22 -7.23 69 -37.79 74
Terrell 1.28 -0.79 -5.34 80 -40.63 76
Thorndale 0.63 -1.87 -7.39 68 -32.53 76
Thornton 1.24 -0.63 -7.23 71 -17.77 88
Trenton 0.10 -1.94 -14.36 49 -48.21 73
Waco Dam 1.83 -0.18 -2.83 88 -20.68 85
Weatherford 0.89 -0.84 -10.65 54 -38.70 72
Whitney Dam 0.85 -1.43 -1.22 95 -24.63 83
Wills Point 1.36 -0.49 -4.78 82 -30.54 82
  observed
amount
departure
from normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
departure
from normal
percent
of normal
  August 2014 Year-to-Date
(January - August 2014)
October 2010 - August 2014

 

For some areas, the first Saturday in September was a heavy rain event; but for many other areas, little precipitation fell early in the month.  Below is radar-estimated month-to-date precipitation (through September 9).

 

Radar-Estimated Precipitation Totals (September 1-9, 2014)

Estimated Precipitation Totals (September 1-9, 2014)

 


Lake Levels

 

Most reservoirs across the region ended the summer with less water, but there were several notable exceptions.

  • The heavy rain events from Denton to Gainesville this summer were in the watersheds of Lake Ray Roberts and Lake Lewisville, both of which gained around 3 feet over the course of the summer.  Despite the gains, both reservoirs remain several feet below conservation.
  • Lake Grapevine finished the summer around a foot higher.
  • Lake Granbury, Lake Pat Cleburne, Lake Whitney, and Aquilla Lake are all still benefiting from the June deluge, but all remain several feet low.
  • Lake Bridgeport made some modest gains this summer but is still a staggering 23 feet below conservation.

Among the reservoirs that are struggling the most, a handful have set record low levels this year.

  • The level at Lake Granbury hit an all-time low on June 22 before a deluge in its watershed raised the level by more than 6 feet in just 2 days.  However, the lake has been in steady decline since the beginning of July, losing more than 3 feet from its post-deluge peak.
  • Lake Nocona (Montague County) reached a new record low on August 26.  Rain only temporarily halted its precipitous decline, and the current level is within an inch of setting a new record.
  • Lake Ray Hubbard, a water supply reservoir for the city of Dallas, is currently at its all-time record low level.
  • Possum Kingdom Lake is currently at its lowest level since 1971.

   

Record Low Lake Levels Set in 2014

 

new record low set this year

record low before the current drought

year dam was completed

Lake Granbury

681.48 on June 22

685.28 in August 1978

1969

Lake Nocona

814.29 on August 26

816.95 in October 2000

1960

Lake Ray Hubbard

426.31 on September 9 (current level)

429.72 in October 2000

1969

 

For current lake level information (including pool height, departure from conservation pool height, and percent of conservation volume), visit Water Data for Texas.

  

Water Restrictions

 

After five years of quarantine, water from Lake Texoma is available once again, following the completion of a new pipeline.  The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) has recommended that its member cities allow for weekly landscape watering during September and October.  The NTMWD serves 1.6 million customers east and northeast of the city of Dallas.

In April, 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 will continue its twice-per-week limit, as well as the daytime restriction on traditional sprinklers, through the end of October.  Since water restrictions vary considerably throughout the Metroplex, residents should keep informed with the current guidelines from their municipality or water utility provider.

Voluntary conservation continues for both Waco and Temple/Killeen.  However, water restrictions remain in effect for some communities within McLennan County and Bell County.

The Brazos River Authority (BRA) is asking customers within the Upper Brazos Basin, as well as areas as far downstream as Whitney, to reduce usage by 10%.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) maintains a list of water restrictions across the state.

 


Outlooks

 

Precipitation Outlook - September-October-November 2014

The autumn outlook (September through November) favors above normal precipitation.

 

These outlooks present the likelihood of receiving a precipitation total that differs significantly from normal.  The 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.

The threshold for El Niño conditions was met during June, but sea surface temperatures in portions of the central Pacific returned to normal the following month.  Although El Niño conditions have been slow to take hold in the equatorial Pacific, an El Niño event is still expected during the upcoming cold season.  An El Niño Watch remains in effect, but the likelihood of a moderate or strong El Niño has diminished considerably.  Nonetheless, long range outlooks still favor above normal precipitation for the Lone Star State the next several months.

 

3-Month Precipitation Outlooks

Long Range Precipitation Outlooks

 

The precipitation outlooks above show enhanced chances for above normal precipitation throughout the upcoming cold season.  This is consistent with El Niño conditions.  As a result, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook projects easing of drought conditions across North and Central Texas.

 

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

 


 Drought Links

 

 National Integrated Drought Information System

 National Drought Mitigation Center

  Drought Impact Reporter

  Precipitation Estimates

 

 


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