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Regional Drought Update Date
May 20, 2021
Site Section
Drought Status Update

Southern Plains Drought Status Update


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

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

Drought conditions improve for southern Texas, persist for western Texas.

Key Points

  • Except for parts of northern Zapata County, just about the entire drought-affected area from Del Rio to Houston southward has seen more than 150% of normal rain so far this month.
  • One to three additional inches of rain are expected for southern Texas over the next week.
  • May and June are typically the wettest months of the year in the Southern Plains, and rainfall in these months are critical for productive agriculture. 
  • The latest seasonal outlook for June-August favors above-normal temperatures, with no strong tendency for above- or below-normal precipitation.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Texas | May 18, 2021

The U.S. Drought Monitor 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.

This map shows drought conditions for Texas, as of May 18, 2021.

The U.S. Drought Monitor 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.

This map shows drought conditions across the Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System (DEWS), as of May 18, 2021.

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 #f5ad3d 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

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 #f5ad3d 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
Main Stats
32.95%
of Texas is in drought (D1-D4)
47.22%
of the Southern Plains DEWS is in drought (D1-D4)
1-3 inches
of rain expected for southern Texas by the end of May

Recent and Current Conditions

May Precipitation for Southern Texas

  • At least part of every county in the drought-affected area from Del Rio to Houston southward has seen more than 150% of normal rain so far this month.
  • May rainfall across most of drought-affected southern Texas has been greater than 150% of the historical monthly mean.
May month to date percent of normal precipitation for Southern Texas (through May 20, 2021). May rainfall across most of drought-affected southern Texas has been greater than 150% of the historical monthly mean.
Percent of normal precipitation for May 1–20, 2021. Source: National Weather Service.
May 1-20 observed precipitation totals across southern Texas.
Observed precipitation totals for May 1–20, 2021. Source: National Weather Service.

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions for Texas

  • The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows Extreme (D3) drought remains in areas surrounding Laredo. 
  • The majority of southern Texas is no longer experiencing drought conditions.
  • Exceptional (D4) drought conditions have been in place in west Texas since August 2020.
U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map for Texas, showing the change in drought conditions from May 11 to May 18, 2021. Southern Texas, near San Antonio, has seen a 3-category improvement due to rains between the two weeks.
One-week U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened from May 11 to May 18, 2021. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

1–7 Day Rainfall Forecast

One to three additional inches of rain is expected for southern Texas over the next week.

The National Weather Service's 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation of 1+ inches across the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana and Texas, as well as the eastern halves of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and areas of the lower Midwest. Lesser accumulations (generally less than 1 inch) are expected across the Southeast, parts of the Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast. Out West, dry conditions are forecasted with the exception of areas of eastern New Mexico, Colorado, and areas of Wyoming that are expected to receive accumulations of less than 1.5 inches.
The National Weather Service's 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast for May 20–27, 2021. Source: National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center.

8–14 Day Outlook

  • Near-normal temperatures and precipitation are favored in the Climate Prediction Center's 8–14 day outlook.
  • May and June are usually the wettest time of the year for southern Texas.
Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day temperature outlook, showing the probability of exceeding the median temperature for May 27 through June 2, 2021. Odds favor above normal temperatures for the eastern U.S. while odds favor near normal temperatures southern Texas and much of the West.
8–14 day temperature outlook for May 27–June 2, 2021, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.
Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day precipitation outlook, showing the probability of exceeding the median precipitation for May 27 through June 2, 2021. Odds favor below normal precipitation for the western US and the gulf coast except for Texas. Southern Texas can expect near normal precipitation for the forecast period.
8–14 day precipitation outlook for May 27–June 2, 2021, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.

June–August Seasonal Outlook

  • For June–August, there is a greater chance for above-normal temperatures.
  • Neither above- nor below-normal precipitation is especially favored for Texas through the season.
Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for June to August 2021. Odds favor above normal temperatures for most of the U.S.
Three-month temperature outlook for June–August, 2021, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.
Climate Prediction Center 3-month precipitation outlook, valid for June to August 2021.  Odds favor below normal precipitation for the northern half of the western US and for Texas.
Three-month precipitation outlook for June–August, 2021, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.

For More Information

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

More local information is available from the following resources:

Prepared By

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

John Nielsen-Gammon
Texas State Climatologist, Texas A&M University
Director, Southern Regional Climate Center

Victor Murphy
Climate Services Program Manager, National Weather Service Southern Region

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. The purpose of the update is to communicate amelioration of drought conditions for far southern Texas within the Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought updates as conditions evolve.