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Regional Drought Update Date
July 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.

 

Extreme Heat and No Rain Has Sparked Flash Drought in the Southern Plains.

 

 

Key Points

  • An extreme and record-setting heat wave coupled with very low precipitation has caused a rapid intensification of drought over the Southern Plains.
  • June and July precipitation has been in the lowest 20% of historical records. 
  • There are reports of cattle producers selling livestock to adapt to poor grazing conditions and high feed prices.
Main Stats
23%
of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
85%
of New Mexico is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
7%
of Oklahoma is in extreme (D3) drought
57%
of Texas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

Persistent Dry Conditions and Heat Wave

  • An intense heat wave has settled over Texas and Oklahoma.
    • Maximum temperatures: 
      • Parts of southern Oklahoma and northern Texas have already had over 40 days above 100 ºF this year.
      • The highest temperature so far this year in Texas occurred on June 8, 2022, at Rio Grande Village in Brewster County. The temperature hit 117 ºF.
      • On July 19, 2022, all Oklahoma Mesonet sites reached 103 ºF or higher on the same day—a first for the network of 120 sites, which has records back to the mid-1990s. 
      • From June 1 to July 18, 2022, a combined 27 monthly record-high maximum temperatures have been either tied or broken in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico.
    • Minimum temperatures: 
      • From June 1 to July 18, 2022,  a combined 80 monthly record-high minimum temperatures have been either tied or broken in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico.
      • On July 18, the daily minimum temperature of 86 ºF tied the all-time record-high minimum temperature at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 
  • Precipitation has been less than 25% of normal for this time of year.
    • A large area in eastern Oklahoma and a few pockets of northern Texas have had less than 0.1 inches of precipitation over the last 30 days.
  • Evaporative demand has been persistently high for the last 4 weeks, including very high Evaporative Demand Drought Index values over the past week. What little water may have entered the landscape has quickly evaporated.

30-Day Departure from Normal Temperature

In the 30 days leading up to July 17, much of the Southern Plains has had near or above-normal temperatures.
The above image shows the departure from normal temperature across the Southern Plains in the 30 days leading up to July 17, 2022. Areas most affected by drought have seen mean temperatures (average of daily max and daily minimum) three to six degrees above average. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine via Drought.gov.

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

In the 30 days leading up to July 17, much of the Southern Plains, including western Texas, western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and southwestern Kansas, has received less than 25% of normal precipitation.
Percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains in the 30 days leading up to July 17, 2022. Most areas that have seen drought intensification over the past month have had less than 25% of normal precipitation for the month. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine via Drought.gov.

Over the week leading up to July 12, most of eastern Texas is experiencing ED3, or extreme evaporative demand.

Over the 4 weeks leading up to July 12, most of Texas is experiencing ED1 level, or persistent moderate increase in evaporative demand. Some locations in eastern Texas are experiencing ED3, or extreme evaporative demand.
Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) for the 1 week (top) and 4 weeks (bottom) leading up to July 12, 2022. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory via Drought.gov.
A Twitter post from National Weather Service that reads “Extreme heat is impacting many of you across the nation today - including here in the southern plains, where several daily high temperature records are forecast to be broken. Visit weather.gov for your latest, local forecast.” Includes a map of the Southern Plains showing temperatures above 100 ºF.
National Weather Service tweet on July 19 about high temperatures in the Southern Plains. Source: @NWS on Twitter.

Rapid Drought Intensification ("Flash Drought")

  • Low precipitation with intense heat waves can rapidly intensify drought conditions. 
  • The Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI) for the 4 weeks leading up to July 17 shows a rapidly developing drought across western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, southern Missouri, and northern Arkansas. 
4-week Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI). A rapidly developing drought is evident across western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI) for the 4 weeks ending July 17, 2022. Source: QuickDRI

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 93% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 46% 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.
According to the July 19 U.S. Drought Monitor, 93% of the Southern Plains is in drought. Pockets of Western Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas and eastern New Mexico are experiencing severe to exceptional drought.
U.S. Drought Monitor conditions for the Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System, as of July 19, 2022. Dryness and drought categories—ranging from Abnormally Dry (D0) to Exceptional Drought (D4)—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. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

Late July 2022: 6–10 Day Outlook

Hot conditions are forecast to remain through July. A rain-bearing cold front is expected in the short-range outlook, but there is uncertainty about how much rain it will produce and how far south it will dip. 

Odds favor above-normal temperatures for the Southern Plains from July 27-31.
6–10 day temperature outlook for July 27–31, 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
Odds favor normal to below-normal precipitation for the Southern Plains from July 27-31, 2022.
6–10 day precipitation outlook for July 27–31, 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

August 2022 Outlook

  • Fire risk is elevated for drought-stricken areas of the Southern Plains
  • Significant wildland fire potential remains elevated over western Oklahoma and Texas through August.
Western Texas and Oklahoma and all of Kansas can expect above normal wildland fire potential in August.
Significant Wildland Potential Outlook for August 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 August:

  • Increased temperatures are highly likely across the whole Southern Plains region with the highest odds over northeast New Mexico.
  • Odds favor below-normal monthly precipitation for all but far-western Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle, where odds equally favor above- or below-normal precipitation.
The monthly outlook for August 2022 shows an increased probability of above-normal temperatures for the Southern Plains.
Monthly temperature outlook for August 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
The monthly outlook for August 2022 shows an increased probability of below-normal precipitation for most of Kansas, Oklahoma, and central to western Texas.
Monthly precipitation outlook for August 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

3-Month Outlook for August–October 2022

  • Seasonal forecasts for August–October show a hotter-than-normal season ahead for the Southern Plains.
  • Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely for Kansas, Oklahoma, northern and western Texas, and eastern New Mexico.
According to the Climate Prediction Center's 3-month temperature outlook, odds favor above normal temperatures for the Southern Plains.
Three-month temperature outlook for August–October 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
According to the Climate Prediction Center's 3-month precipitation outlook, odds favor below normal precipitation for Kansas, western and central Oklahoma, western Texas, and eastern New Mexico.
Three-month precipitation outlook for August–October 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal Drought Outlook for July 21–October 31

With persistent high temperatures and low precipitation in the Climate Prediction Center's seasonal outlook, areas that are already in drought are expected to remain in drought while drought development is likely over Louisiana and southern Arkansas. 

The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook forecasts that drought will persist or develop across the Southern Plains from July 21 to October 31.
U.S. seasonal drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from July 21–October 31, 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 July 18 weekly NINO3.4 value was −0.6 °C. This is marginally within the La Niña threshold.
  • The latest Climate Prediction Center El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) discussion maintains a La Niña Advisory. La Niña is favored to continue through 2022, with the odds for La Niña decreasing into the Northern Hemisphere late summer (60% chance in July–September 2022) before increasing through the Northern Hemisphere fall and early winter 2022 (62%–66% chance). 
  • La Niña patterns do not usually persist into Northern Hemisphere summer months, but the few historical events that have persisted experienced decreased precipitation in northern Texas in the summer with no strong pattern through the rest of the region.
  • 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. 
  • A third La Niña pattern in winter would favor another dry winter ahead for the Southern Plains and the Southwest U.S. (learn more). 
  • No two La Niña patterns are the same. For more information, please check out the NOAA ENSO blog.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for May 30–June 5, 2022

Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) for July 11-17, 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 July 11–17, 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 July 2022 to May 2023. Source: International Research Institute

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Kansas

  • Through July, the whole state has been dealing with 100–105 degree temperatures—already more in one month than would be expected for the entire year for some locations.
  • In western Kansas, sorghum—a highly drought-tolerant crop—is very stressed.
  • The state has seen a large number of dry lightning fires. Grass fires are not typically this widespread, especially in the southeast. 
  • Goodland, Kansas has issued a Water Watch, encouraging voluntary reductions in water use. 
  • In mid-June, days of intense heat have killed thousands of cattle in Kansas. 
  • To learn more, read the June Climate Summary for Kansas.
Kansas precipitation anomalies for the 30 days leading up to July 21. Western Kansas has precipitation anomaly values ranging from -0.5 to -2.98 inches.
Departure from normal precipitation for the last 30 days leading up to July 21, 2022. Source: Kansas Mesonet.

Oklahoma

  • A flash drought (rapid intensification of drought conditions) is developing over eastern Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma has been in a pattern of repeated and intense heat waves and little-to-no rain caused by a persistent high-pressure pattern.
  • On July 19, 2022, all Oklahoma Mesonet sites reached 103 ºF or higher on the same day—a first for the network of 120 sites, which has records back to the mid-1990s.
  • Oklahoma’s drought-impacted winter wheat harvest estimates are down to 72.9 million bushels, according to the USDA. This is down 37% from last year and would be the state’s lowest production total since 2014.

Year to date (July 20) in southwest Oklahoma, there have been over 35 days to exceed 100 degrees F.

On July 19, 2022, every station in the Oklahoma Mesonet reached temperatures of 103 ºF or above.
Top: The number of days from January 1–July 20, 2022, with temperatures above 100 ºF in Oklahoma. Bottom: Daily maximum temperatures recorded on July 19, 2022. Source: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Texas

  • The statewide average temperature for June 2022 was 83.8 °F, ranking fifth warmest overall and 4.2 °F above the 20th-century average. July so far is on track to be the second hottest on record, behind only 2011. 
  • Year-to-date statewide average rainfall is 7.91 inches as of June 30, 2022. This is the sixth driest January–June on record and the driest since 2011.
  • Wildfire risk continues to increase across the state as shrubs and trees dry out and dead leaves and grasses provide fuel for fire ignition.
County average April to June 2022 temperature rankings for Texas. Most central and south Texas counties rank warmest on record; overall, all but five counties are in the top ten percent.
April–June 2022 average temperature rankings for Texas counties, compared to historical conditions (since 1895). Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

New Mexico

  • Spring 2022 (March-April-May) was the 6th driest spring on record for New Mexico with 0.76 inches of precipitation.
  • June is usually a relatively dry month for New Mexico. June 2022 precipitation, when averaged across the state, was the 5th wettest on record, bolstered by an early onset of the Southwest Monsoon.
  • Western New Mexico benefited from most of the early monsoon rain while the eastern part of the state mostly missed out.
From June 21 to July 20, Western New Mexico has been relatively wet, with greater than 200% of normal precipitation for this time of year. However, the plains of eastern New Mexico have not seen the monsoon precipitation and have less than 50% of normal precipitation for this time of year.
Percent of normal precipitation for the 30 days leading up to July 20, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

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
Southern Regional Climate Center

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.