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Regional Drought Update Date
January 22, 2021
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Drought Status Update

Drought Update for the Southern Plains DEWS


DEWS Regions:
States:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought updates as conditions evolve.

Drier than normal conditions forecasted to persist through spring: Potential expansion of drought into central and east Texas.

Key Points

  • Rain and snow in December helped to alleviate drought conditions in much of Texas, southern and central Oklahoma, and south-central and southeast Kansas.
  • Moderate (D2) to Extreme (D3) Drought continues in the far southwest Oklahoma and western panhandle.
  • Exceptional (D4) Drought persists in western Texas.
  • Forecasts suggest drought conditions may spread in spring
  • Dust storms and increased fire danger in western and central Kansas.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | January 19, 2021

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts’ assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year. 

Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) Drought persists across western parts of Texas and Kansas, and Harmon County, Oklahoma. Exceptional (D4) Drought conditions have been in place in West Texas since August 2020.

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0 - Abnormally Dry
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1 - Moderate Drought
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2 - Severe Drought
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3 - Extreme Drought
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4 - Exceptional Drought
Source(s):

NDMCNOAAUSDA

Last Updated  -  01/19/21
Main Stats
20%
of Texas is experiencing Extreme to Exceptional Drought (D3 - D4)
10%
of Kansas is experiencing Extreme to Exceptional Drought (D3 - D4)
1%
of Oklahoma is experiencing Extreme to Exceptional Drought (D3 - D4)

2020 Drought Recap

2020 Precipitation for the Southern Plains Region

Rainfall across the Southern Plains Region was near average for 2020, although some areas within the region experienced periods of severe and extreme drought throughout the year.

Annual state-wide average rainfall:

  • Texas: 26.04 inches, 1.04 inches below average
  • Oklahoma: 39.1 inches, 5.26 inches above average
  • Kansas: 25.73 inches, 1.33 inches below average

2020 Percent of Normal Precipitation

Percent of normal annual precipitation for 2020 across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Shows below-normal precipitation across most of western to central Texas, northwestern Oklahoma, and northwestern and southeastern Kansas. Parts of western Texas saw precipitation between 10%-50% below normal.
Percent of normal annual precipitation for 2020. Source: National Weather Service.

Percent of Kansas in Drought: 2020

Drought conditions in Kansas throughout 2020, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. During the whole year, between 10% to just below 70% of Kansas was in drought (D1 - D4).
Percent area of Kansas that was in drought throughout the year 2020. Drought is measured according to the five U.S. Drought Monitor categories, from Abnormally Dry (D0) to Exceptional Drought (D4). Source: U.S. Drought Portal.

 Percent of Oklahoma in Drought: 2020

Drought conditions in Oklahoma throughout 2020, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Shows an increase in drought conditions starting in May 2020. At one point in July, more than 50% of Oklahoma was in drought (D1 - D4).
Percent area of Oklahoma that was in drought throughout the year 2020. Drought is measured according to the five U.S. Drought Monitor categories, from Abnormally Dry (D0) to Exceptional Drought (D4). Source: U.S. Drought Portal.

 Percent of Texas in Drought: 2020

Drought conditions in Texas throughout 2020, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. At the end of 2020, around 70% of Texas was in drought (D1 - D4).
Percent area of Texas that was in drought throughout the year 2020. Drought is measured according to the five U.S. Drought Monitor categories, from Abnormally Dry (D0) to Exceptional Drought (D4). Source: U.S. Drought Portal.

Recent and Current Conditions

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • Drought conditions have improved over Texas and Oklahoma over the past month.
  • Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) drought persists across western parts of Texas and Kansas, and Harmon County, Oklahoma:
    • Texas (20% of the state)
    • Oklahoma (1%)
    • Kansas (10%)
  • Exceptional (D4) drought conditions have been in place in West Texas since August 2020.

U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map: 1 Month

U.S. Drought Monitor change map for the Southern Plains Climate Hub region, showing the change from December 22, 2020 to January 19, 2021. Large parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma saw 1-3 class improvements, while areas in the western and southern tip Texas saw degradation.
Current U.S. Drought Monitor 1-month change map for the Southern Plains, showing where drought has improved, worsened, or stayed the same from December 22, 2020 to January 19, 2021. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Precipitation

Overall, precipitation was near average for Texas for the 30 days leading up to January 21, but this was not evenly distributed across the state. While eastern Texas has had over 6 inches of precipitation over the last four weeks, the panhandle and far western Texas (El Paso County) have received less than 0.5 inches.

Single-Storm and Seasonal Accumulated Snowfall

Single-storm snow totals within the last 4 weeks (top maps), and seasonal snow totals for winter-to-date (bottom map) for the Southern Plains
Single-storm snow totals within the last 4 weeks (top), and seasonal snow totals for winter-to-date (bottom) for the Southern Plains. Source: NOAA National Operational Hydrological Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC).

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

30-day percent of normal precipitation over the Southern Plains, as of January 21, 2021
30-day percent of normal precipitation. Valid January 21, 2021. Source: National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)

4-Week EDDI for January 15, 2021

  • A spell of below-average temperatures and some snow helped lower evaporative demand over the Southern Plains in December.
  • Monthly averaged EDDI to January 15 still shows slightly elevated evaporation for this time of year for central Kansas and western and southern Texas.
4-week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) for the contiguous U.S., valid January 15, 2021. Shows slightly elevated evaporation for this time of year for central Kansas and western and southern Texas.
1-month Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI). Valid January 15, 2021. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Seasonal Outlooks

Temperature Outlook

There is a greater chance for above-normal temperatures across the Southern Plains for the months February through April, with the highest probabilities in southern Texas.

Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for February to April 2021. Above-normal temperature are predicted across the Southern Plains.
U.S. temperature outlook for February to April 2021, showing the probability of above- and below-normal temperatures over the next 3 months. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

Precipitation Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center's 3-month precipitation outlook shows that below-average precipitation is the most likely outcome for February–April across the southwest, including Texas and New Mexico. This pattern is typical of strong La Niña patterns.

Climate Prediction Center 3-month precipitation outlook, valid for February to April 2021. Shows probability of below-normal precipitation across the Southwest, including Texas and New Mexico.
U.S. precipitation outlook for February to April 2021, showing the probability of above- and below-normal temperatures over the next 3 months. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

View all current Climate Prediction Center outlooks.

Seasonal Drought Outlook

Exceptional (D4) drought persists in western Texas. The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook (through the end of April) suggests that drought conditions may spread eastward in spring.

Seasonal drought outlook for the U.S. and Puerto Rico, predicting whether drought will improve, worsen, or stay the same between January 21 and April 30, 2021. Predicts that the existing drought conditions in western Texas may spread eastward.
U.S. seasonal drought outlook, predicting whether drought will emerge, stay the same, or get better from January 21 to April 30, 2021. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Kansas

  • Southern bias to precipitation allowed for drought improvement in south-central and southeast Kansas.
  • Dust storms and increased fire danger remain an issue across the state.
  • Milder than normal temperatures increase evaporative demand, and risk early break in dormancy of winter wheat.

Oklahoma

  • Four significant storms tracked over Oklahoma during December, helping reduce drought across much of southern and central Oklahoma.
  • The areas of moderate to extreme drought in the far southwest and western panhandle have been in place since at least summer 2020.

Texas

  •  The first three months of 2020 were the record wettest in seven counties.
  •  The last nine months of 2020 were the record driest in thirteen counties.

202 Texas Precipitation Rankings by County

Texas maps showing rainfall rank by county for January - March 2020 (left image) and for April - December 2020 (right image). The first 3 months of 2020 were the record wettest years (out of the last 126 years) for 7 counties in Texas. The final 9 months were the record driest in 13 counties.
Rainfall rank by county for January–March 2020 (left) and April–December 2020 (right). Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

For More Information

More local information is available from the following resources:

Prepared By

Joel Lisonbee
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

John Nielsen-Gammon
Regents Professor and Texas State Climatologist
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University

Mary Knapp
Weather Data Library and Kansas Assistant State Climatologist
Dept. of Agronomy, Kansas State University

Gary McManus
State Climatologist, Oklahoma Mesonet, Oklahoma Climatological Survey

Special Thanks

This Drought Early Warning Update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the offices of the state climatologist for Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The purpose of the update is to communicate a potential area of concern for drought expansion and/or development within the Southern Plains based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought updates as conditions evolve.

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