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Regional Drought Update Date
April 22, 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 persists in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Kansas.

 

Key Points

  • More than 50% of the region is in extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought.
  • Soils are very dry, and wildland fire potential is elevated across the Southern Plains.
  • Drought is expected to continue into summer.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | April 19, 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 April 19, 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
17%
of Kansas is in extreme (D3) drought
63%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) drought
36%
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
53%
of Texas is in extreme (D3) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 92% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 51% 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.
  • The last time more than 50% of the Southern Plains region experienced D3 or greater drought was in January 2013.
  • Moderate (D1) or worse drought has been in the region since June 2016.

Percent of Normal Precipitation Since January 1, 2022

 Map of the Southern Plains showing year-to-date percent of normal precipitation. 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 50% of normal precipitation for the year and much of western Texas is below 50%.
Percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains from January 1–April 17, 2022. Areas most affected by drought have seen less than 25% (dark red) of normal precipitation. The majority of western Texas and Oklahoma has seen less than 25% of normal precipitation for the year. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

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 March 22 to April 19, 2022.  Drought has improved over north eastern Texas, worsened for southern and western Texas and with little change elsewhere as drought conditions have been in place since early winter.
Four-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened from March 22–April 19, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Recent and Forecast Precipitation

  • April usually provides between 1.5 and 2.5 inches of precipitation for western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas and about an inch for eastern New Mexico. 
  • So far, April 2022 has seen less than 0.1 inches for the drought-affected area of these states.
  • The week ahead (April 22–29, 2022) will bring welcome precipitation to central Texas and Oklahoma, but the Panhandles will likely stay dry or see only small rainfall totals.  

April Month to Date Precipitation

A map of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas showing total precipitation for the month-to-date as of April 17, 2022.
Month-to-date total precipitation through April 20, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Quantitative Precipitation Forecast: April 22–29, 2022

Map showing forecast accumulated precipitation for the dates of April 22-29. entral Texas through eastern Oklahoma are forecast to receive 1.5 to 3 inches while Drought-affected regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are forecast to receive less than an inch of precipitation. Eastern New Mexico will likely miss out on this storm.
Quantitative Precipitation Forecast, showing forecast precipitation (in inches) for the 7 days from April 22–29, 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-April

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-April as depicted by the USDA Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA).

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

May 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: May 2022

Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May 2022. he Southern Plains can expect above normal wildland fire potential through spring.
Significant Wildland Potential Outlook for May 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 May shows increased temperatures and decreased precipitation.
  • The 4-week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) forecast shows decreased evaporative demand across west central Texas and southern Oklahoma.

May 2022 Temperature Outlook

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

May 2022 Precipitation Outlook

Climate Predication Center 1-month precipitation outlook for May 2022. Odds favor below normal precipitation for the Southern Plains states.
Monthly precipitation outlook for May 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

Map of the western US showing the Evaporative Demand Drought Index. Generally expect increased evaporative demand for Northern Texas for the 4 weeks following April 21.
4-week Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) forecast, showing projected evaporative demand for the 4 weeks following April 21, 2022. Areas shown in orange and red show regions of expected increased evaporation. Source: UC Merced.

3-Month Outlook for May–July 2022

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

  • Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely than not for western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern New Mexico for May through July.
  • Odds strongly favor increased temperatures through the remainder of spring and early summer 2022 for the Southern Plains states. 

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: May–July 2022

Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for May–July 2022. Odds favor above normal temperatures for the Southern Plains states.
Three-month temperature outlook for May–July 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 May to July 2022, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Odds favor below normal precipitation for drought affected areas of Kansas, western Oklahoma and western Texas, with equal chances of above or below normal precipitation for eastern Texas and Oklahoma.
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 and far-eastern Oklahoma.

April 21–July 31, 2022 Drought Outlook

Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to worsen, improve, or remain the same from April 21 to July 31, 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 April 21–July 31, 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 western Texas, through winter and spring was a La Niña pattern in the Pacific.
  • The April 10 weekly NINO3.4 value was −0.70 °C, indicating a La Niña pattern persists in the central Pacific.
  • La Niña patterns do not usually persist into northern-hemisphere summer months, but the few historical events that have persisted experienced increased precipitation across the Southern Plains. No two La Niña patterns are the same. 
  • For more information, please check out the NOAA El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) blog

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for April 4–10, 2022

ap of the Pacific Ocean showing sea surface temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) for April 4-10, 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 April 4–10, 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 May–July During La Niña

isk of wet or dry extremes from the historical composite of May through July La Ninas from NOAA ESRL/PSL for the continental U.S. Extreme dry conditions are likely for much of the Southwest.
May–June–July (MJJ) rainfall pattern when averaged over historical La Niña events, showing the risk of wet and dry extremes in MJJ 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 through summer with a slightly increased chance of a third La Niña pattern next winter.
ENSO forecasts from the International Research Institute, showing the probability of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions from April 2022 to February 2023. Source: International Research Institute

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Kansas

  • Continued very active wildfire season with a fuels advisory due to aggressive behavior and risk to life/property. 
  • Driest April to date (April 20th) for most of western and central Kansas.
  • Cooler and drier than normal temperatures have delayed greenup and limited moisture demands.
  • A lot of early irrigation to keep soil moisture profiles intact and to help wheat.

30-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation

Departure from normal precipitation for the last 30 days. Minimal moisture has been observed for much of west/central Kansas.
Departure from normal precipitation (inches) for the last 30 days, through April 20, 2022. Minimal moisture has been observed for much of west/central Kansas.

Oklahoma

  • Prolonged periods of high winds, near-record high temperatures, and lack of rainfall continue to accelerate drought intensification across the western half of Oklahoma. 
  • Areas in the Oklahoma Panhandle have gone since late August since seeing at least a quarter-inch of rainfall in a single day. 
  • The USDA reports that 61% of Oklahoma’s topsoil and 66% of its subsoil are considered “short” or “very short” of moisture.
  • Wildfires continue to be a concern, with 19 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties under a burn ban.

Consecutive Days with Less Than 0.25 Inches of Rainfall

Map of Oklahoma showing the number of consecutive days with less than 0.25 inches of rainfall, as of April 20, 2022. Areas in the Oklahoma Panhandle have gone since late August since seeing at least a quarter-inch of rainfall in a single day.
Map of Oklahoma showing the number of consecutive days with less than 0.25 inches of rainfall, as of April 20, 2022. Source: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Texas

  • Cool and dry conditions during the first few months of the year have delayed greenup across the state, enhancing wildfire risk.
  • Over 80% of the winter wheat crop and over 75% of range and pasture conditions are presently rated as in very poor condition by the USDA.  Statewide, 83% of topsoil and 85% of subsoil are rated short to very short. 
  • Despite some additional rain forecasted by the end of April, the September-April period will probably be among the ten driest such periods on record statewide and, except for 2010-2011, the driest since 1956.
  • Considerable moisture is needed during the next two months to avoid a high probability of a hot summer.

County Precipitation Rankings: September–March

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

New Mexico

  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 80% of topsoil moisture is in the very short to short condition, and 70% of winter wheat in the very poor to poor condition as of April 17, 2022.
  • Due to the low topsoil moisture, many farms and ranches were reporting negative impacts from wind erosion causing deteriorating air quality. Numerous dust storms have impacted areas in southern and eastern parts of the state.
  • Several wildfires are burning across the state. The three largest—the Cooks Peak Fire, Hermits Peak Fire, and McBride Fire—burned a combined 34,732 acres as of April 21. These fires are burning over drought-stressed forests and grasslands.
  • High-elevation New Mexico snowpack is holding on but is below average in the Rio Grande Basin, ranging from 73% to 54% of medial SWE as of April 21. Pecos SWE is at 23% of median and will likely melt out close to a month earlier than the median. Lower basins in the Gila and Rio Hondo have already melted out. As a result, below-normal streamflow is expected on all major rivers this spring along with shortened irrigation seasons.
  • Less than an inch of precipitation has fallen in many areas of eastern New Mexico since New Year's Day. Only 0.18 inch has been recorded at the Carlsbad airport in 2022.

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

Dave DuBois
New Mexico State Climatologist

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.