Current Drought Conditions
After one of the wettest starts to a year, the last 3 months have been quite dry across the region. Despite rainfall deficits of several inches since the beginning of July in some locations, these same areas remain well above normal for the year to date. Many sites have already exceeded their normal annual precipitation.
3-Month Precipitation Deficits (July - September)
Abundant spring rainfall resulted in considerable growth. After the dry summer months, much of this vegetation was dormant or dead. Although some areas have seen heavy rainfall during September, pastures and rangeland across much of the region remain dry and conducive to fire. As the fall rainy season begins, green growth will likely emerge, and the fire danger should diminish. In the meantime, it is important to be vigilant about fire usage even if there is no formal burn ban in effect for your area. 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.
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, is still requesting that residents adhere to a twice-per-week watering schedule, but the formal restrictions have been lifted. 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.
El Niño conditions have strengthened considerably during the warm season, and a strong El Niño event may be in the offing throughout the upcoming cold season. This has increased confidence in the wet outlook for the fall, the upcoming winter, and the spring of 2016. Based on previous El Niño events, the prospects for enhanced precipitation are greater towards the Gulf coast. The wet signal is strong in Central Texas but is much less significant along the Red River and in western portions of North Texas. The strength of El Niño may also play a role, with stronger El Niño events resulting in higher precipitation totals.
Precipitation Outlooks for the Cold Season
These outlooks present 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.
Based on the likelihood of enhanced precipitation totals this fall, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook projects some improvement of the drought conditions within North and Central Texas.