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Regional Drought Update Date
October 26, 2023
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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.

A Soggy End to October + El Niño Winter: Drought Is Expected to Improve, but Remain


Key Points

  • Oklahoma flash drought conditions ease after wet week in late October.
  • Tropical moisture and heavy rains in late October are likely to improve short-term drought across the region.
  • Long-term drought is expected to see continued improvement over the next three months.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | October 24, 2023

U.S. Drought Monitor

Main Stats
of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) drought
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
of Texas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought

What Are Current Drought Conditions in the Southern Plains?

U.S. Drought Monitor

  • 72% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse), a 27% increase from 3 months ago.
  • 25% of the region is experiencing Extreme (D3) drought or worse:
    • Kansas—20% of the state
    • New Mexico—37%
    • Oklahoma—13%
    • Texas—25%
  • 5% of the region is experiencing Exceptional (D4) drought.
  • Louisiana, while not in the Southern Plains DEWS region, has seen increasing drought. 99.9% of the state is in Moderate (D1) drought or worse, 88.5% of the state in Extreme (D3) drought or worse, and 67.62% of the state is in Exceptional (D4) drought, a new record high for the state.
  • 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.

Antecedent Rainfall, Temperatures, and Evaporation

  • On average, statewide, Texas usually receives a bit over three inches of rain in September. A series of storms from September 11–17 delivered over two inches of rain to many parts of western and central Texas, western Kansas, and the Oklahoma Panhandle, which had been in extreme drought (D3). This provided some amelioration to drought in the region.
  • October precipitation included some storms early in the month and a soggy week toward the end of the month (with mostly tropical moisture from remnants of Hurricane Norma), with a long dry spell in between.
  • On average, Texas usually gets about 2.8 inches of rain in October, Oklahoma usually gets about 3.3 inches and the Kansas state-wide average is near 2.3 inches of rain. 
  • Over the last 30 days, temperatures across the Southern Plains have been 1–6 ºF above normal. Precipitation has been generally low for most of the Southern Plains.
  • Persistently high temperatures coupled with little to no rainfall have led to high evaporative demand and worsening drought conditions across northern, central, and western Texas. 

Last 30 Days: Precipitation and Temperature Conditions

Over the last 30 days to October 23, 2023, much of the region has experienced near- or below-normal precipitation, with areas of above-normal precipitation in parts of Texas and the far-western Oklahoma panhandle.

Over the last 30 days to October 23, 2023, the Southern Plains has experienced near- to above-normal maximum temperatures.

Short-Term Multi-Indicator Drought Index (MIDI)

Short-term drought indices indicates areas of dryness and drought over much of Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and central Oklahoma. Louisiana is experiencing significant drought conditions.

1-Month Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)

Over the past month, Evaporative demand was especially high along the Texas/Oklahoma border and across western Kansas.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks: When Will This Drought End?

  • The week ahead shows a continuation of wet weather. Moderate-to-heavy rainfall is forecast for drought-affected parts of central Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas through the end of October.
  • Heavy rainfall will likely all be west and north of Louisiana, where Exceptional (D4) drought is expected to continue through the next month or more.
  • The Climate Prediction Center's 6–10 day outlook shows slightly higher odds toward below-average precipitation through early November.  

7-Day Precipitation Forecast: October 25–31

From October 25-31,  1.5 to 4 inches of rain is expected over eastern Oklahoma with 1 to 2 inches expected over northern and central Texas.

6–10 Day Precipitation Outlook: October 31–November 4

For October 31 to November 4, odds favor below-normal precipitation across most of the Southern Plains, except for southern Texas, where near- to above-normal precipitation is favored.

November 2023 Outlooks

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

  • Temperature: There are increased odds of above-normal temperatures in November for most of the Southern Plains.
  • Precipitation: The outlook shows an increased chance of above-normal precipitation for most of the Gulf Coast region in November. This would bring welcome drought relief to eastern Texas and Louisiana.

 Maps of the Southern Plains showing the probability of exceeding above or below normal temperature for November  2023. There are increased odds of above normal temperature for November for most of the Southern Plains.

Maps of North America showing the probability of above or below normal precipitation for  November 2023. The outlook shows an increased chance of above normal precipitation along the gulf coast for November.

3-Month Outlook for November 2023–January 2024

  • The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal temperature outlook for November 2023–January 2024 shows an equal chance of above- or below-normal temperatures for the Southern Plains.
  • The seasonal precipitation outlook for November 2023–January 2024 calls for slightly increased odds for a wetter-than-normal season. The highest odds are along the Gulf Coast beginning in far eastern Texas. This is typical for El Niño patterns in late fall and early winter.

The seasonal temperature outlook for November 2023—January 2024 shows an equal chance of above or below normal temperatures for the Southern Plains.

The seasonal precipitation outlook favors above-normal precipitation across much of the Southern Plains, with equal chances of above or below normal precipitation in western Kansas.

Long-Range Climate Guidance: Winter 2023

  • El Niño conditions are present in the central Pacific and are anticipated to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter.
  • Each El Niño has impacted the Southern Plains weather differently, but on average, when a strong El Niño pattern is in place, the Southern Plains experiences a dry summer followed by a wet winter. El Niño was one factor in the extended drought conditions this summer. Past events indicate increased rainfall can be expected in late fall and early winter this year. 

Risk of Precipitation Extremes During El Niño Years: November–January

In years when an El Niño pattern was present in the Pacific there is an increased chance of extreme wet weather for the southern states in late fall and early winter.

Seasonal Drought Outlook for October 17, 2023–January 31, 2024

  • Drought is expected to improve over the next three months, according to the latest U.S. Drought Seasonal Outlook. 
  • This is supported by a wet seasonal outlook and the typical impact of El Niño on winter precipitation.

For most of the Southern Plains, drought is forecast to improve but persist through late winter.

How Has Drought Impacted the Southern Plains?

Mississippi River

  • The Mississippi River at St. Louis reached a seasonal low in mid-September, exceeding low river levels from the year before. 
  • The river levels have risen slightly since reaching the seasonal low.
  • Low flow through the Mississippi River has been creating problems for water supply and saltwater intrusion near New Orleans

Mississippi River Levels at St. Louis

The Mississippi River at St. Louis reached a seasonal low in mid-September, exceeding low river levels from the year before. Levels have risen slightly since hitting that low.

Fire Conditions

  • After months of very hot, dry conditions, fuels remain dry through eastern Texas, and across Arkansas and Louisiana.
  • The Tiger Island Fire, in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, began on August 22 and burned over 31,000 acres, making it the largest fire in Louisiana state history.
  • For Louisiana and Mississippi, summer 2023 was the most active fire season in each state's history. 
  • Smoke from fires, combined with fog, contributed to a major car accident north of New Orleans.
  • Wildland fire potential is expected to return to near-normal through winter per the National Interagency Coordination Center. Slightly above-normal wildfire activity may continue in some of the drier pockets around the region over the next few weeks.

Fire Activity and Evaporative Demand

A map of the southern plains regions showing high values of evaporative demand and increased fire activity for western Texas, near Midland, and across southern Texas and Lousianna.


State-Based Conditions and Impacts 


  • There has been little change to drought conditions. Nearly one-quarter of Kansas Mesonet sites, mostly in the eastern third of the state, are running at least 10 inches below normal precipitation for the year to date.
  • Much-below-normal streamflow continues at many locations in the eastern half of the state.
  • Soil moisture at the 5 cm level is lacking across the entire state.

30-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation

For the 30 days leading up to October 24, precipitation is below normal for nearly every station, with the largest deficits in southeast and east central Kansas.


  • Flash drought in Oklahoma extended more than 90 days before rains halted its advance.
  • The extent of the flash drought was evident with widespread 90-day deficits of 4–8 inches. 
  • Long-term drought conditions stretching back to August 2021 continued in far southwest and north-central Oklahoma.

90-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation

For July 25 to October 22, precipitation deficits exist in far-southwestern and north-central Oklahoma, as well as the western Panhandle and an area along the east-central border of the state.


  • Over the past month, the majority of the state has seen continued below-normal rainfall. In some areas, like much of the northern Panhandle, northern Edwards Plateau, and Trans-Pecos, rainfall amounts were generally less than 0.5 inch. 
  • Even for many of the areas across much of northern and eastern Texas that received 1–3 inches of rain over the past month, these amounts were below average during what is typically one of the wetter months of the year in portions of the region. 
  • The main locations that received above-normal rainfall during this period include much of the area between Midland and Lubbock in west Texas, far northeastern Texas, and much of south Texas, and a few swaths across parts of Pecos, northern Terrell, and much of Kimble and Brazoria counties. Some other small swaths of above-normal rainfall were observed, but much larger portions of the state experienced drier conditions. 
  • Water storage continues to decrease across the state, and reservoirs are now 64.4% full. This is nearly 15% below the median value for this time of year, and 2.8% lower than at this time last year. 
    • On a more localized basis, the situation is even worse. Reservoir levels in the Edwards Plateau, south-central Texas, and along the Rio Grande remain at or near all-time lows for this time of year.
    • Streamflows are similarly at or near all-time lows for this time of year across these regions.

Texas Reservoir Storage

Reservoirs in the eastern part of Texas are mainly 70 or more percent full, while most reservoirs in western Texas are less than half full.

Southern Plains Drought in the News

For More Information

Prepared By

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

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

Matt Sittel
Kansas Assistant State Climatologist, Kansas State University

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

William (BJ) Baule and Alison Tarter
Texas State Climate Office, Texas A&M University
Southern Regional Climate Center

Keith White and Victor Murphy
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.