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Regional Drought Update Date
August 18, 2023
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 Heat Intensifies Drought Across Texas

Key Points

  • A record-setting heatwave continues across most of Texas and Louisiana, intensifying drought and increasing wildfire activity.
  • Austin, Texas enters stage 2 of its Drought Contingency Plan, extending further water restrictions to residents. 
  • Kansas and Oklahoma see drought conditions improve, but remain. 
  • New Mexico has the hottest July on record. 
Current Conditions
30-Day Precipitation and Temperature Conditions: Southern Plains

Percent of Normal Precipitation (%)
Range Map Hex Color Description
0% - 25% #8c510a Precipitation was only 0% to 25% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
25% - 50% #bf812d 25%–50% of Normal Precipitation was 25% to 50% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
50% - 75% #dfc27d 50%–75% of Normal Precipitation was 50% to 75% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
75% - 100% #f6e8c3 75%–100% of Normal Precipitation was 75% to 100% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
Range Map Hex Color Description
100% - 150% #c7eae5 100%–150% of Normal Precipitation was 100% to 150% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
150% - 200% #80cdc1 150%–200% of Normal Precipitation was 150% to 200% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
200% - 300% #35978f 200%–300% of Normal Precipitation was 200% to 300% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
300% - #01665e >300% of Normal Precipitation was greater than 300% of the historical average for this location, compared to the same date range from 1991–2020. 
Departure from Normal Max Temperature (°F)
Range Map Hex Color Description
- -8 #0404ff >8°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was more than 8°F colder than normal for this location.
-8 - -6 #2166ac 6–8°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was 6–8°F colder than normal for this location.
-6 - -4 #4393c3 4–6°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was 4–6°F colder than normal for this location.
-4 - -3 #92c5de 3–4°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was 3–4°F colder than normal for this location.
-3 - -1 #d1e5f0 1–3°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was 1–3°F colder than normal for this location.
-1 - 0 #ffffff 0–1°F Below Normal The average maximum temperature was 0–1°F colder than normal for this location.
Range Map Hex Color Description
0 - 1 #ffffff 0–1°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was 0–1°F warmer than normal for this location.
1 - 3 #fddbc7 1–3°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was 1–3°F warmer than normal for this location.
3 - 4 #f4a582 3–4°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was 3–4°F warmer than normal for this location.
4 - 6 #d6604d 4–6°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was 4–6°F warmer than normal for this location.
6 - 8 #b2182b 6–8°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was 6–8°F warmer than normal for this location.
8 - #800000 >8°F Above Normal The average maximum temperature was more than 8°F warmer than normal for this location.

Main Stats
18%
of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
3%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) drought
2%
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
16%
of Texas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought

Recent Conditions

  • Temperatures across Texas and New Mexico were 4 to 8 ºF above average—and 0 ºF to 3 ºF above average for Kansas and Oklahoma.
  • On average, Texas receives 2.51 inches of rain in July, 2.73 inches of rain in August, and 3.48 inches of rain in September. This year the statewide average rainfall for July was only 1.3 inches—the second July in a row with a greater than 1-inch deficit.
  • Persistently very high temperatures coupled with little to no rainfall over the summer have led to worsening drought conditions across central and southern Texas.  
  • Over the last two months, drought has expanded into Louisiana where wildfire activity has increased in response to the persistently hot and dry conditions. 

July Temperatures

  • New Mexico experienced its highest average monthly temperature since records began in 1895. The mean temperature for the month was 78.6 ºF, which is 5.9 ºF above the 20th-century average and 1.7 ºF above the previous record set in 2016.
  • Texas experienced its fourth warmest July and the fifth highest average monthly temperature of any month since records began in 1895. The mean temperature for July was 86.2 ºF, which is 3.9 ºF above the 20th-century July average but still 0.9 ºF below the record set last year in 2022.
  • Kansas and Oklahoma both ended the month of July with near-average temperatures for the month overall.
In July 2023, New Mexico had its highest July monthly average temperature since 1895. The 1901-2000 mean for July in New Mexico is 72.7 degrees, and July 2023 was 78.6 degrees. The next highest July temperature was in July 2016 at 76.9 degrees.
Timeseries showing New Mexico's average monthly temperature for each July from 1895–2023, compared to the 20th-century mean (black line). The 20th-century mean is 72.7ºF. Source: NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.
In July 2023, Texas had its 4th highest average monthly temperature since 1895. The 1901-2000 mean for July in Texas is 82.3 degrees, and July 2023 was 86.2 degrees. Only July 2022, 2011, and 1998 had a higher average temperature.
Timeseries showing Texas' average monthly temperature for each July from 1895–2023, compared to the 20th-century mean (black line). The 20th-century mean is 82.3ºF. Source: NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

 U.S. Drought Monitor

  • 60% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse), a 5% decrease from 3 months ago.
  • 13% of the region is experiencing Extreme (D3) drought or worse:
    • Kansas—18% of the state
    • New Mexico—3%
    • Oklahoma—2%
    • Texas—16%
  • 1% of the region is experiencing Exceptional (D4) drought.
  • Louisiana, while not in the Southern Plains DEWS region, has seen increasing drought and now has 77% of the state in D1 or worse and 15% of the state in D3 or worse.
  • Extreme (D3) drought conditions have been in place in this region since August 2019.
  • Moderate (D1) or worse drought has been in the region since June 2016.

U.S. Drought Monitor: August 15, 2023

Areas of moderate to exceptional drought are present across Texas and Kansas.
The U.S. Drought Monitor depicts the location and intensity of drought across the country using 5 classifications: Abnormally Dry (D0), showing areas that may be going into or are coming out of drought, and four levels of drought (D1–D4). This map depicts drought conditions across the Southern Plains as of August 15, 2023. Source: NOAA, USDA, National Drought Mitigation Center. Map via Drought.gov.

4-Week U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map

Much of Texas and western New Mexico saw drought degradations over the past 4 weeks, with some improvements in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
U.S. Drought Monitor 4-week change map for the Southern Plains, showing where drought/dryness have improved (green to blue hues) or worsened (yellow to brown hues) from July 18 to August 15, 2023. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Multi-Indicator Drought Index: August 8, 2023 

According to a blend of short-term drought indicators, extreme drought conditions have developed over the Gulf Coast region, central and far western Texas.
The Short-Term Multi-Indicator Drought Index (MIDI) looks at current drought conditions across the U.S. by integrating several key short-term (looking back up to 90 days) drought indices on precipitation and moisture into one objective, computer-generated map. Valid August 8, 2023. Red/orange hues indicate drier conditions, while green/blue hues indicate wetter conditions. Source: UC Merced, via Climate Engine.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

September 2023 Outlook

According to the Climate Prediction Center's monthly outlook for September: 

  • Temperature: There are increased odds of above-normal temperature for September for the Southern Plains.
  • Precipitation: The outlook shows an equal chance of above- or below- normal precipitation for the Southern Plains for September.
This map shows the monthly temperature outlook for the Southern Plains for September 2023, by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Above normal temperature chances are favored for the Southern Plains.
Monthly temperature outlook for September 2023, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal or below-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
This map shows the monthly precipitation outlook for the Southern Plains for September 2023, by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Equal chances for above or below normal precipitation chances are favored for the Southern Plains.
Monthly precipitation outlook for September 2023, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal or below-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center via Drought.gov.

3-Month Outlook for Fall: September–November 2023

Seasonal outlooks for September–November 2023 show a warmer season ahead for the Southern Plains. There is a near-equal chance of above- or below-normal precipitation for the season.

This map shows the seasonal temperature outlook for the Southern Plains for September to November 2023, by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Above normal temperature chances are favored for almost the entire region, except for northeast Oklahoma, where there are equal chances for above or below normal temperatures.
Three-month temperature outlook for September–November 2023, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal or below-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center via Drought.gov.
From September to November 2023, most of the Southern Plains has equal chances of above- or below-normal precipitation, with slight chances for above-normal precipitation in western Texas and eastern New Mexico.
Three-month precipitation outlook for September–November 2023, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal or below-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center via Drought.gov.

Seasonal Drought Outlook for September–November 2023

Drought is forecast to persist in Kansas and Oklahoma and persist and develop across some of Texas and most of New Mexico from September to November 2023.

Drought is forecast to persist or develop across much of Texas and New Mexico from September to November 2023.
U.S. seasonal (3-month) drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from August 17 to November 30, 2023. Issued August 17, 2023. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center via Drought.gov.

Texas Impacts

  • After months of very hot, dry conditions, fuels are very dry, and in many areas Energy Release Component is at an all-time high for this time of year. As a result, wildfire activity has increased significantly over the past month, particularly over central and eastern portions of the state. Over the past month, 167 wildfires totaling nearly 11,000 acres burned were reported by the Texas A&M Forest Service. Above-normal wildfire activity is likely to continue over the same regions into September, per the National Interagency Coordination Center.      
  • Water storage has decreased across the state, and reservoirs are now 70.9% full. This is more than 10% below the median value for this time of year, but remains higher than at this time last year.

Texas Reservoir Levels

A map showing the percent full of each substantial reservoir in Texas.
Reservoirs in the eastern part of Texas are full or nearly so, while most reservoirs in western Texas are less than half full. Figure by Texas Water Development Board

Southern Plains Drought in the News

For More Information

Prepared By

Joel Lisonbee,
NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System, Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System; CIRES/CU Boulder

Kelsey Satalino, Adam Lang, and Eleanor Hasenbeck
NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System, Communications; CIRES/CU Boulder

Keith White
National Weather Service

Special Thanks

 

This drought status 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.