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Regional Drought Update Date
May 23, 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

  • Extreme (D3)/exceptional (D4) drought remains over eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, and much of central and west Texas. 
  • Heavy rains in the past 30 days have relieved drought across much of eastern Oklahoma, and expected rainfall should bring more improvement.
  • Exceptional drought (D4) expanded in New Mexico, where the fire season is in full swing. With over 311,000 acres burned, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Complex is now the largest in modern records for the state of New Mexico.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | May 17, 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 May 17, 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
26%
of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
85%
of New Mexico is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
34%
of Oklahoma is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
56%
of Texas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 78% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 56% 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.

Drought Change Over the Past Month

Parts of all states in the Southern Plains have experienced a one to two category degradation, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, from April 19 to May 17. Meanwhile, central OK and southern TX have seen some improvement.
Four-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened from April 19–May 17, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Recent and Forecast Precipitation

  • May is usually the wettest month of the year for the Southern Plains.
  • In an average year, the mean total precipitation for the Southern Plains states from January to the end of May is usually around 13 inches.
  • Drought-affected areas of western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern New Mexico have received less than half the normal precipitation for this time in the year.

Mean Monthly Precipitation for Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas

Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas combined 1991-2020 mean monthly precipitation in inches. The monthly mean values are as follows: January = 1.70, February = 1.69, March = 2.44, April = 2.81, May = 4.25, June = 3.89, July = 3.02, August = 3.08, September = 3.27, October = 3.20, November = 2.15, December = 1.99.
Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas combined 1991–2020 mean monthly precipitation. Precipitation data is  from the Southern Regional Climate Center.

60-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

Map of the Southern Plains showing 60-day percent of normal precipitation. Much of the region, including western Texas, western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, and southwestern Kansas, has received less than 50% of normal precipitation over the last 60 days.
60-day percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains through May 19, 2022. Areas most affected by drought have seen less than 50% of normal precipitation over the last 60 days. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine via Drought.gov.
  • April precipitation anomalies for the Southern Plains states:
    • Texas: -1.08 inches
    • Oklahoma: -0.83 inches 
    • Kansas: -1.55 inches, 3rd driest April on record
    • New Mexico: -0.69 inches, 2nd driest April on record
  • A few May storms have provided above-average precipitation for eastern Oklahoma where drought conditions have considerably improved. Drought-affected parts of western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have had below-average precipitation for the month so far.
  • Forecast precipitation across the Southern Plains could bring May precipitation in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles to near-average for the month, with above-average precipitation in the eastern parts of those states. 

May Month-to-Date Total Precipitation

From May 1 to 19, western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have all received less than 0.1 inches of precipitation.
May month-to-date total precipitation (inches), through May 19, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Quantitative Precipitation Forecast: May 23–30, 2022

From May 23-30, Central Texas through eastern Oklahoma are forecast to receive up to 1.5 inches while Drought-affected regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are forecast to receive closer to half 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 May 23–30, 2022. Source: National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center, via Drought.gov.

The USDA Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) Product shows a significant shortage of soil moisture across the region.

Soil Moisture Anomaly for Mid-May

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

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

June 2022

Fire risk is elevated for drought-stricken areas of the Southern Plains:

  • Elevated fire risk is forecast to persist through at least June.
  • 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: June 2022

The Southern Plains can expect above normal wildland fire potential through early summer.
Significant Wildland Potential Outlook for June 2022. Above-normal indicates a greater than usual likelihood of significant fires. Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Predictive Services.

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

  • Odds favor increased temperatures across the whole Southern Plains region.
  • Odds favor below-normal monthly precipitation for western Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and eastern New Mexico.

June 2022 Temperature Outlook

The monthly outlook for June 2022 shows an increased probability of above-normal temperatures across the Southern Plains.
Monthly temperature outlook for June 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

June 2022 Precipitation Outlook

The monthly outlook for June 2022 shows an increased probability of below-normal precipitation for western Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and eastern New Mexico.
Monthly precipitation outlook for June 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

3-Month Outlook for June–August 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 June through August.
  • Odds favor increased temperatures through the remainder of summer 2022 for the Southern Plains states. 

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: June–August 2022

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

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: June–August 2022

Climate Prediction Center three-month precipitation outlook for June to August 2022. 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 June–August 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 western Southern Plains through summer.
  • The Climate Prediction Center's 3-month drought outlook shows drought expanding in southern and eastern Texas.

May 19–August 30, 2022 Drought Outlook

Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to worsen, improve, or remain the same from May 19 to August 30, 2022. Drought is expected to expand in southern and eastern Texas.
U.S. seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from May 19–August 30, 2022. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña Persists and May Impact Winter Weather

  • 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 May 16 weekly NINO3.4 value was −1.1 °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 decreased precipitation across the Southern Plains in early summer and no strong pattern in late summer. No two La Niña patterns are the same. 
  • The latest forecasts for winter 2022–23 indicate that another La Niña is slightly more likely to occur than a neutral pattern this winter, and an El Niño is unlikely. This means another dry winter is possible for the Southern Plains.
  • For more information, please check out the NOAA El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) blog

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for May 2–8, 2022

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing sea surface temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) for May 2-8, 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 May 2–8, 2022. Blue shading in the equatorial Pacific indicates cooler water temperatures consistent with a La Niña pattern. Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

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

  • Anticipated low wheat yields due to early slow development with cooler/drier conditions and now maturing too quickly with recent warmth. 
  • Continued early irrigation with concerns about water allocations being reached early in the season.
  • Several wildfires have occurred in the southwest, including lightning starts. May fires and natural ignitions are rare for Kansas.
  • Continued cattle sell-offs due to limited surface water and poor forage conditions.

30-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation

Departure from normal precipitation for Kansas over the last 30 days. The heaviest rains have remained isolated with much of the state at or below their 30 day average.
Departure from normal precipitation (inches) for the last 30 days, through May 19, 2022. While some areas have observed above normal moisture, heaviest rains have remained isolated with much of the state at or below their 30-day average.

Oklahoma

  • Rains through spring have relieved drought across much of eastern Oklahoma.
  • Prolonged deficits have proven difficult to overcome across the western one-half of Oklahoma, leading to drought persistence. 
  • Oklahoma's winter wheat abandonment is expected to be more than 45% of the planted crop (2.0 million acres out of the 4.4 million planted), with the yield at 25 bushels/acre, a 35.9% drop from last year. 

Percent of Normal Rainfall: March 1–May 18

Percent of 1981-2020 normal precipitation across Oklahoma for March 1-May 18. The western half of Oklahoma has seen precipitation deficits, while parts of eastern Oklahoma have seen above-normal precipitation.
Percent of 1981–2010 normal rainfall for Oklahoma from March 1–May 18, 2022. Source: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Texas

  • Statewide average rainfall was less than 10 inches for the period September–April. This is sixth driest on record and the driest since1925, almost one hundred years ago.
  • The first 20 days of May were the warmest on record for large portions of the state:
    • Through May 20, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area were all experiencing record warm temperatures for the month of May.
    • Prior to this year, in Abilene, the greatest number of 100 °F temperatures in the month of May was 7.  May 20 marked the 12th day this month where Abilene experienced 100 °F temperatures.
  • A cold front late on Saturday, May 21 is expected to provide temporary relief from the heat for all but South Texas. The wet pattern may also improve drought conditions, but it is too late for most of the winter wheat crop and much of the spring plantings.

Average Temperature Rankings: May 1–17

Average temperatures rankings for Texas, May 1-17. The first 17 days of May were the warmest on record for large portions of the state.
Average temperature rankings for Texas, May 1–17, 2022. Source: Southeastern Regional Climate Center CLIMate PERspectives.

New Mexico

  • Statewide, April 2022 tied April 1991 as the second driest April on record with only 0.06 inches of precipitation, all of which was confined to the northern counties. April 2022 was also the 11th warmest April on record and the warmest since 2012. 
  • With over 311,000 acres burned, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Complex is now the largest in modern records for the state of New Mexico.
  • As of May 19, reservoir storage along the Rio Grande and Pecos River Basins are very low. Along the Rio Grande, Elephant Butte is at 13% full, and Caballo is at 14% full. On the Pecos River, Sumner is at 32%, Brantley is at 46%, and Avalon is at 20%.

For More Information

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought updates as conditions evolve.

More local information is available from the following resources:

In Case You Missed It

Upcoming Events

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.