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Regional Drought Update Date
March 17, 2022
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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.

Exceptional drought continues to expand in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Kansas.

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

 

Key Points

  • Exceptional drought (D4) has developed over parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and southwest Kansas.
  • Severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought have developed across central Texas and Oklahoma, raising concerns for agricultural impacts going into the growing season.
  • Above-normal fire risk is in place for drought-stricken regions of the Southern Plains. 
  • Despite spotty above-average precipitation in far south Texas and northwest Kansas, drought is likely to persist through June.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | March 15, 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 March 15, 2022.

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
10%
of Kansas is in extreme (D3) drought
39%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) drought
57%
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
41%
of Texas is in extreme (D3) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 90% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 42% of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought.
  • 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.

Percent of Normal Precipitation Since January 1, 2022

 map of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas showing percent of normal precipitation from January 1-March 16, 2022. All of the region, with a few small exceptions along the OK AR border and in far southern coastal Texas, are at less than 90% of normal precipitation. Much of the region including western Texas, western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and southwestern Kansas have received less than 25% of normal precipitation for the year.
Percent of normal precipitation for the Southern Plains from January 1–March 16, 2022. 

Drought Change Over the Past Month

U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map for Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, showing the change in drought conditions from February 15 to March 15, 2022.  Drought has improv
Four-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened from February 15–March 15, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Recent and Forecast Precipitation

  • Records of state-averaged precipitation for all states began in 1895 (127 years of record). In the 4 months since November 1, 2021, all Southern Plains states have seen precipitation totals ranking in the driest 10% on record. Precipitation values and percent of normal for each state for the period 11/1/21–2/28/22 are as follows: 
    • Kansas: 1.29 inches. 34% of normal. 4th driest such period on record.
    • Oklahoma: 3.95 inches. 57% of normal. 13th driest such period on record.
    • Texas: 3.46 inches. 52% of normal. 10th driest such period on record.
    • New Mexico: 1.29 inches. 49% of normal. 12th driest such period on record.
  • March usually provides about an inch of precipitation for western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas and a bit less than an inch for eastern New Mexico. 
    • So far, March 2022 has seen less than 0.1 inches for the drought-affected areas of these states.
    • Forecast precipitation may bring March’s total to near average.

March Month to Date Precipitation

A map of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas showing total precipitation for month-to-date as of March 16, 2022. Western Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas have all received less than 0.1 inches.
Month-to-date total precipitation as of March 16, 2022. Source: Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service (AHPS).

Quantitative Precipitation Forecast: March 17–24, 2022

Map showing forecast accumulated precipitation for the dates of 17-24 March. Drought-affected regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are forecast to receive between 0.5 and 1.5 inches of precipitation for this period. Eastern New Mexico is forecast to get less than 0.5 inches.
Quantitative Precipitation Forecast, showing forecast precipitation (in inches) for the 7 days from March 17–24, 2022. Source: National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center

Soil moisture, as measured by the USDA Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) Product, shows significant shortage of soil moisture across the region.

Soil Moisture Anomaly for Mid-March

Soil moisture is below 50% of normal across most of the Southern Plains, and more than 70% below normal across western Texas, Oklahoma and southwestern corner of Kansas.
Soil moisture anomaly for mid-March as depicted by the USDA Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA).

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

April 2022

  • Fire risk is elevated for drought-stricken areas of the Southern Plains
    • Elevated fire risk is forecast to persist through spring.
    • Much of west Texas and the Texas Panhandle have Energy Release Components that are near or at record high values for this time of year.

Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook: February 2022

Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for April 2022. he Southern Plains can expect above normal wildland fire potential through spring.
Significant Wildland Potential Outlook for April 2022. Above-normal indicates a greater than usual likelihood of significant fires. Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Predictive Services.
  • The Climate Prediction Center's monthly outlook for April shows increased temperatures and decreased precipitation.
  • The 4-week evaporative demand forecast shows increased Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) across west central Texas and southern Oklahoma.

April 2022 Temperature Outlook

Climate Predication Center 1-month temperature outlook for April 2022. Odds favor above normal temperatures for the southern US, including the Southern Plains States.
Monthly temperature outlook for April 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

April 2022 Precipitation Outlook

Climate Predication Center 1-month precipitation outlook for April 2022. Odds favor below normal precipitation for theSouthern Plains States.
Monthly precipitation outlook for April 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) 4-Week Forecast

Central Texas and southern Oklahoma can expect increased evaporative demand over the 4 weeks following March 17.
4-week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) forecast, showing projected evaporative demand for the next 4 weeks. Valid March 17, 2022. Areas shown in orange and red show regions of expected increased evaporation. Source: UC Merced.

3-Month Outlook for April–June 2022

Seasonal forecasts show a hot and dry spring ahead for the Southern Plains:

  • Spring is usually the wettest season for the Southern Plains, and spring rainfall is essential for agriculture in the region. Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely than not for the entire region for the critical April through June time period.
  • Odds strongly favor increased temperatures through spring 2022 for the Southern Plains states. 

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: April–June 2022

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

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: April–June 2022

Climate Prediction Center three-month precipitation outlook for April to June 2022, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions.   Odds favor below normal precipitation for theSouthern Plains States.
Three-month precipitation outlook for April–June 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 Climate Prediction Center's 3-month drought outlook shows drought remaining for all but northeastern Texas, much of Oklahoma, western Kansas, and northern Louisiana.

March 17–June 30, 2022 Drought Outlook

Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to worsen, improve, or remain the same from March 17 to June 30, 2022. Current drought conditions over the western U.S. are forecast to persist.
U.S. seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from March 17–June 30, 2022. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña to Continue Through Spring and Possibly into Summer

  • One of the primary drivers of drought across the Southwest (including Texas) this season was a La Niña pattern in the Pacific.
  • February saw a small resurgence in cool sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific (the primary indication of a La Niña pattern). It is likely that La Niña conditions will persist into early summer.
  • Spring precipitation is usually lower than normal in the Southwest, but the rest of the Southern Plains do not see a strong push toward wet or dry in a La Niña spring. 
  • For more information, please check out the NOAA El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) blog.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for March 10–16, 2022

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing sea surface temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) for March 6-13, 2022. A pool of cool water lingers in the central equatorial pacific, consistent with a la Niña pattern.
Sea surface temperature anomalies for the Pacific Ocean for March 10–16, 2022. Blue shading in the equatorial Pacific indicates cooler water temperatures consistent with a La Niña pattern. Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Risk of Wet/Dry Extremes in April–June During La Niña

isk of wet or dry extremes from the historical composite of April through June La Ninas from NOAA ESRL/PSL for the continental US. Extreme dry conditions are likely for much of the Southwest.
April–May–June (AMJ) rainfall pattern when averaged over historical La Niña events, showing the risk of wet and dry extremes in AMJ during La Niña. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Probability of El Niño, La Niña, or Neutral Conditions

Bar graph showing the relative likelihood of El Niño, La Niña or neutral conditions in the Pacific. A continuation of a La Niña pattern is likely until summer.
ENSO forecasts from the International Research Institute, showing the probability of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions from February to December 2022. Source: International Research Institute

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Kansas

  • Significant wildfire near Hutchinson consumed over 130 structures and resulted in one fatality. 
  • Cover crop failures occurred in southeast Kansas due to poor growth before cold temperatures.
  • Supplemental feed is necessary in southwest Kansas to sustain cattle herds due to poor foraging conditions. 

County Precipitation Rankings: November–February

County precipitation rankings for November 2021–February for the state of Kansas, compared to historical conditions since 1895.
Precipitation rankings for November 2021–February 2022 by county (since 1895).  Numerous North Central Kansas counties observed the driest November through February timeframe on record. Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate at a Glance.

Oklahoma

  • Nearly all counties in the western half of Oklahoma and the northern third of Oklahoma are experiencing top 10% dryness over the past 4 months.
  • Long-term deficits have stressed Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop, with many areas seeing a profound lack of wheat pasture for grazing impacting Oklahoma’s livestock producers.
  • Wildfires continue to be a concern, with 29 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties under a burn ban.

County Precipitation Rankings: November–February

County precipitation rankings for November 2021–February for the state of Oklahoma, compared to historical conditions since 1895.
Precipitation rankings for November 2021–February 2022 by county (since 1895). Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate at a Glance.

Texas

  • The Texas Forest Service shows the Energy Release Component for fire development for much of western and central Texas above the 90th percentile for this time of year.  The elevated threat of wildfires will likely last all spring.
  • Over half of the winter wheat crop is presently rated as in very poor condition by the USDA.  Ranchers in many areas are challenged by poor forage and low water supplies in stock tanks.  Spring planting season is threatened by continued dry weather.
  • Most counties experienced temperatures among the top 10% historically for the period August through February, exacerbating the dry conditions by accelerating evaporation.  
  • The dry conditions are contributing to the likelihood of above-normal temperatures in the seasonal outlook for Texas, reflecting a feedback cycle that worsens drought impacts.

County Precipitation Rankings: September–February

Precipitation rankings by county for September 2021 to February 2022.
Precipitation rankings for September 2021–February 2022 by county. Thirteen counties in West Texas experienced their driest September through February on record. Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate at a Glance.

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), Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System and CIRES/CU Boulder

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

Chip Redmond
Kansas State University

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

Victor Murphy
National Weather Service

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.