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Map of the Southern Plains DEWS region, which includes Oklahoma, Texas, and parts of Kansas and New Mexico
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Drought Early Warning System

Southern Plains

The development of the Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) was initiated in 2011 when a drought of strong intensity and vast geographical extent unfolded in the southern tier of the United States. From 2010–2015, drought persisted throughout parts of the region, impacting western portions of Texas and Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico as well as many other areas in these states. Impacts were numerous across economic sectors. Failure of winter wheat and summer crops during 2011 resulted in shortages of food for cattle, which forced farmers to purchase large amounts of hay or sell their herds. Additionally, the drought caused critical municipal water shortages and led to wildfire danger and other ecological impacts. Many of these impacts lingered until 2015. The Southern Plains DEWS was launched to meet the diverse needs of stakeholders who needed information on drought conditions and the forecasted outlook, but often on different spatial and temporal scales.

Primary contact: Joel Lisonbee, Regional Drought Information Coordinator

Regional Activities

Regional Activities Summary

The following table highlights activities in the Southern Plains that are ongoing efforts related to drought, involve multiple partners, serve as a unique way to address regional drought needs, and are related to at least one of the components of drought early warning. Please contact Joel Lisonbee (joel.lisonbee@noaa.gov) for more information about the table or to inquire about getting an activity added to the list.

DEWS Component Legend

Observation & Monitoring
 
Planning & Preparedness
 
Prediction & Forecasting
 
Communication & Outreach
 
Research & Applications

Select filters to browse DEWS Activities below

Description

Every week, the Office of the State Climatologist of Texas coordinates input from the state of Texas to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Input is solicited from stakeholders, and an open webinar is held…

Scope
State
Key Partners
Office of the Texas State Climatologist, National Weather Service
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

The Drought Information Statement is a summary of the current state of the drought, including precipitation deficits, local impacts, outlooks, and other information. A statement is issued by the…

Scope
Region
Key Partners
National Weather Service
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components
Description

The USDA-NIFA funded Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project involves  around 70 researchers engaged in interdisciplinary, collaborative research and outreach related to dryland, limited…

Scope
Region
Key Partners
Agricultural Research Service, Colorado State University, Texas A&M University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, West Texas A&M University, Texas Technical University, New Mexico State University
Project Timeline
Mar
2016
Mar
2021
DEWS Components
Description

With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project team is working to improve the radar-based Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and SPI blends that they…

Scope
Region
Key Partners
Office of the Texas State Climatologist, NASA, NOAA
Project Timeline
Ongoing
DEWS Components

Observation + Monitoring

The Southern Plains DEWS contains diverse climates such as the semi-arid region of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and western Kansas, the desert in eastern New Mexico and Big Bend Country of western Texas, and the hot, humid subtropical Gulf Coast. Weather across the region can change quickly; the region is prone to severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes in the summer and snow and occasional blizzards in the winter. The region is also prone to regular drought. When monitoring drought in the Southern Plains, it is important to consider precipitation, temperature, and evaporation together as water can quickly leave the landscape during times of high evaporative demand. Other indicators include streamflow, soil moisture, groundwater, and various derived indices for monitoring drought in the region.

Regional Data and Maps

NOAA and its partners publish regional reports each quarter, summarizing weather, impacts and predictions.

WaterWatch is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) World Wide Web site that displays maps, graphs, and tables describing real-time, recent, and past streamflow conditions for the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture produces weekly maps and charts displaying locations and percentages of drought-affected areas corn, soybeans, hay, cattle, and winter wheat. 

Maps displaying counties declared primary (red) or contiguous (orange) disaster counties by the Secretary of Agriculture.

The National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook is intended as a decision support tool for wildland fire managers, pr

A tool to access reservoir water level data for Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Planning + Preparedness

The states of the Southern Plains region all have plans for responding to drought. These have been produced by the state agencies responsible for the states' drought response and are linked on this page. For other groups within the region (counties, cities, or industry groups) that would like to create their own drought plan, we have included links to resources on this page. Or, contact the Regional DEWS Coordinator, Joel Lisonbee, for some ideas on how to get started.

Regional Drought Planning Resources

Prediction + Forecasting

While droughts can occur during any time of the year, those that coincide with crop cycles can be especially costly for the Southern Plains region. The resources provided here, while not specific to the region, can provide some indication of when a drought may start and when it may end.

Regional Forecasts and Outlooks

The U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook predicts whether drought will emerge, stay the same or get better over the next 30 days or so.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) produces temperature and precipitation outlooks for the U.S., including 6-10 day, 8-14 day, monthly, and seasonal outlooks.

NWS provides a wide selection of forecast maps for temperature and precipitation for the next 12 hours to 6 days.

NWS WPC produces Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts (QPFs) that depict the amount of liquid precipitation expected to fall in a defined period of time.

The Climate Toolbox is a collection of web tools for visualizing past and projected climate and projected climate and hydrology of the contiguous United States of America.

The Climate Explorer offers graphs and maps of observed and projected temperature, precipitation, and related climate variables for every county in the contiguous United States, helping people asse

Communication + Outreach

NIDIS’s mission for the Southern Plains includes providing those affected by drought with the best available information and resources to better prepare for, mitigate, and respond to the effects of drought. This includes communication and outreach by NIDIS and our partners within the Drought Early Warning network.

The resources below highlight upcoming events or communications tools (podcasts, videos, social media) that are relevant to the Southern Plains. Did we miss something? Let us know by contacting the Regional DEWS Coordinator.

Regional Communications Documents