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Regional Drought Update Date
January 10, 2022
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.

Extreme drought continues to expand over Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Drought is likely to worsen in the coming weeks and months.

 

 

Key Points

  • Extreme (D3) drought has developed over parts of Texas.
  • Record warmth during December increased both the development and intensification of drought across the region. 
  • Western Oklahoma and far southwestern Kansas are still experiencing short- and long-term deficits leading to sustained drought, with portions of northwest Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Panhandle in extreme (D3) drought.
  • Climate outlooks suggest a warmer-than-normal winter is more likely than not for the entire region, with increased chances for a drier-than-normal winter across all of New Mexico, most of Texas, western Oklahoma, and southwest Kansas.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | January 4, 2022

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 as of January 4, 2022.

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
2%
of Kansas is in extreme (D3) drought
21%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) drought
40%
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
17%
of Texas is in extreme (D3) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 82% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 18% of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) drought.
  • Extreme (D3) drought conditions have been in place in this region since May 2020.
  • Moderate (D1) or worse drought has been in the region since August 2009.

Drought Development Over the Past Month

U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map for Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, showing the change in drought conditions from December 7, 2021 to January 4, 2022.  Much of the region has seen 1-3 class degradation in drought conditions.
Four-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened from December 7, 2021 to January 4, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

3-Month Outlook for Winter (January–March 2022)

  • Odds favor above-normal temperatures for the southern U.S., including the Southern Plains.
  • Odds favor below-normal precipitation for the southwestern U.S., including Texas.

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: January–March 2022

Climate Prediction Center three-month precipitation outlook for January–March 2022, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Odds favor below normal precipitation for the Southwest, including Texas.
Three-month precipitation outlook for January–March 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: January–March 2022

Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for January–March 2022. Odds favor above normal temperatures for the southern US, including the Southern Plains.
Three-month temperature outlook for January–March 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal Drought Outlook 

  • Drought is expected to continue for the Southern Plains through spring.
  • The 3-month drought outlook shows drought remaining for all but northeastern Texas, much of Oklahoma, western Kansas, and northern Louisiana.
  • Drought development is likely across central Texas.

January–March 2022 Drought Outlook

Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to worsen, improve, or remain the same from January to March 2022.
U.S. seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from January 1–March 31, 2022. Valid December 31, 2021. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Recap: 2021 Drought in the Southern Plains

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 2021 began with exceptional (D4) drought in western Texas and eastern New Mexico.
  • Summer saw a reprieve from drought conditions.
  • Drought conditions over Oklahoma and northern Texas developed rapidly in September and worsened during a very warm and dry December.

Animation: 2021 U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions in the Southern Plains

Animated GIF of a time series and map of the Southern Plains, showing the progression of drought conditions from the beginning to the end of 2021, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Animation showing the progression of drought across the Southern Plains in 2021, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Explore more historical drought conditions.

U.S. Drought Monitor 12-Month Change Map: 2021

A map of  the Intermountain West showing the change in the US drought monitor from  November to  November. Eastern Colorado, southeast Wyoming and northern New Mexico have seen a 1-2 category degradation.
U.S. Drought Monitor 12-month change map for 2021, showing drought category improvements and degradations from December 29, 2020 to December 28, 2021. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Oklahoma Flash Drought, September 2021

  • Dry conditions developed rapidly over Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle in early September.
  • Some areas saw a 2-category degradation on the U.S. Drought Monitor within 4 weeks.
  • Temperatures and evaporative demand were high, and September precipitation ranked 7th driest for Oklahoma and within the driest 10 Septembers on record for many counties in northern Texas.

2-Week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI): September 25, 2021

2-week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) for the U.S. as of September 25, 2021. EDDI examines how anomalous the atmospheric evaporative demand is.
2-week averaged Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI), valid September 25, 2021. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Record Warmth During December Increased Both Development and Intensification of Drought Across the Region

  • December average temperatures were 8–10 ºF above normal for most of the region.
  • Oklahoma and Texas state-wide average temperatures for December were >10 ºF above the 1991–2020 average, making it the warmest of any winter month on record for both states. 
  • Kansas was 8.4 ºF above the long-term average, which was the warmest December on record, passing the previous record by 2.9 ºF.
  • December total precipitation was less than half the long-term December average.
  • Evaporative demand across the Southern Plains in December 2021 was very high for this time of year.

30-Day Departure from Normal Temperature: January 4, 2022

 Map of the Southern Great Plains showing the 1-month averaged temperature anomalies for the 30 days up to January 4, 2022. Most of the Southern Plains region experienced temperatures more than 8 degrees F above the 1991-2020 December average.
Departure from normal temperatures for the 30 days leading up to January 4, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine.

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation: January 4, 2022

 Map of the Southern Great Plains showing the 1-month total precipitation as a percent of normal for the 30 days up to January 4, 2022. Most of the Southern Plains region experienced precipitation totals less than half of the 1991-2020 December average.
Percent of normal precipitation for the 30 days leading up to January 4, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine.

4-Week Averaged Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)

Map of the Southern Plains showing the 1-month averaged Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) as of December 31, 2021. Areas of high EDDI are shown in yellow and red and cover the whole region except the coastal fringe of Texas and Louisiana.
4-week averaged Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI), valid December 31, 2021. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.
  • The winter-time drought has impacted the hydrology of the area. 
  • Streamflow records in the Texas Panhandle and in western Oklahoma and Kansas are showing lowest flow on record for this time of year.

Streamflow Conditions: Salt Fork Red River in Texas

A hydrograph from the Salt Fork Red River near Wellington Texas. Streamflow for November and December has been the lowest on record.
An example of a low streamgage on the Salt Fork Red River near Wellington, Texas. Source: U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch.

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)

Gary McManus
Oklahoma State Climatologist, Oklahoma Mesonet, Oklahoma Climatological Survey

Chip Redmond
Kansas State University

Cait Rottler
USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub

John Nielsen-Gammon
Texas State Climatologist, Texas A&M University

Victor Murphy
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, Oklahoma, New Mexico, 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.