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Regional Drought Update Date
September 30, 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.

On-Again, Off-Again Drought in the Southern Plains Is Back On Again and Worsening 

Key Points

  • Exceptional (D4) drought spreads across southern Kansas and Oklahoma.
  • September temperatures ranged from 2–5 ºF above the long-term average for Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Texas.
  • With climate outlooks favoring warm and dry conditions, drought in the Southern Plains is expected to remain and expand through the fall.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Southern Plains | September 27, 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 September 27, 2022.

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #ff6600
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
53%
of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
7%
of New Mexico is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
64%
of Oklahoma is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought
9%
of Texas is in extreme to exceptional (D3–D4) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

Overview of the Changing Drought Through Summer

  • The summer began with exceptional (D4) drought in central Texas.
  • May–July combined precipitation was the 5th driest on record for Texas.
  • Oklahoma began seeing drought conditions in August 2021, which eased in winter with the indication of large-scale drought improvements in Oklahoma in June. However, in July, extreme heat and no rain created a flash drought situation in the Southern Plains with Oklahoma as the epicenter.
  • August flood: In the 12 months from August 17, 2021–August 16, 2022 the Dallas region experienced a roughly 15-inch rainfall deficit and was in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought, according to the August 16 U.S. Drought Monitor. On August 21–22, over nine inches of rain fell within about 24 hours in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, and much of northeast Texas experienced a two-class drought improvement according to the August 23 U.S. Drought Monitor. 
Loop of the U.S. Drought Monitor Map from June 7 through September 20, 2022. Drought improved over the summer for Texas, but drought conditions degraded for Oklahoma and Kansas.
Loop of the U.S. Drought Monitor Map from June 7 through September 20, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.
  • Throughout the summer, drought conditions worsened through Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
  • Drought in New Mexico and western Texas improved due to an above-average summer monsoon.
  • Late August rainfall, including some flooding, ameliorated some drought conditions in Texas. 

U.S. Drought Monitor 13-Week Change Map

 Over the last 13 weeks drought has improved by 3 to 5 categories in New Mexico and western and southern Texas while there are 4-5 category degradation of drought in Oklahoma and southwest Kansas. .
U.S. Drought Monitor 13-week change map showing where drought has improved or worsened from June 28–September 27, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions

  • 75.7% of the region is in drought (D1 or worse).
  • 24.6% of the region is experiencing Extreme (D3) drought or worse.
  • 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 

Low Precipitation and Heat Through September

  • So far, September temperatures have been above average for Kansas and Oklahoma.
  • Areas that have seen the strongest degradation in drought (Oklahoma, Kansas, and northern Texas) have seen mean daily maximum temperatures four to six degrees above average.
  • September precipitation has been very much below average for Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas. Areas that have seen the most drought intensification over the past month have had less than 25% of normal precipitation for the month.

30-Day Departure from Normal Maximum Temperature (°F)

 Much of the Southern Plains has had persistently high temperatures over the past month.
Departure from normal maximum temperature (°F) across the Southern Plains in the 30 days leading up to September 24, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine via Drought.gov.

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

Much of the region, including northern Texas, Oklahoma, north eastern New Mexico and southeastern Kansas, has received less than 25% of normal precipitation over the last 30 days.
Percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains in the 30 days leading up to September 24, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine via Drought.gov.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

October 2022

The Climate Prediction Center's monthly outlook for October shows: 

  • Increased temperatures are highly likely across most of the U.S., including the Southern Plains region, with the highest odds over Kansas and northern Oklahoma.
  • The monthly precipitation outlook shows below-average precipitation is the most likely outcome for the whole region in October.

October 2022 Temperature Outlook

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

October 2022 Precipitation Outlook

The monthly outlook for October 2022 shows a greater likelihood of below-normal precipitation for the Southern Plains.
Monthly precipitation outlook for October 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

3-Month Outlook for October–December 2022

  • Seasonal forecasts for October–December show a warmer-than-normal season ahead for the Southern Plains
  • Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely for the Southern Plains.

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: October–December 2022

For October to December 2022, odds favor above-normal temperatures across the Southern Plains.
Three-month temperature outlook for October–December 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: October–December 2022

For October to December 2022, odds favor below-normal precipitation across the Southern Plains.
Three-month precipitation outlook for October–December 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal Drought Outlook

  • Any drought improvements in Texas from the summer precipitation are likely to be removed as dry conditions return to the region through fall. 
  • The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook shows a relatively warm and dry autumn ahead.

September 15–December 31 Drought Outlook

From September 15 to December 31, 2022, drought is predicted to remain or develop across most of the Southern Plains.
U.S. seasonal (3-month) drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from September 15 to December 31, 2022. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña Persists and May Impact Winter Weather

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for September 19–25, 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 September 19–25, 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

 A continuation of a La Niña pattern is likely through winter.
ENSO forecasts showing the probability of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions from August-September-October 2022 to April-May-June 2023. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Kansas

  • Public water supply are concerns increasing across south-central and southeastern Kansas. Caney recently enacted restrictions, and wells are drying up in Wichita.
  • Central Kansas benefited from recent rainfall that should help wheat become established; elsewhere the crop is being dusted in with hopes of future moisture.
  • Corn and soybeans are being cut for silage and feed with expected lower-than-normal yields for crops that are being harvested.
  • Sorghum is varying greatly with planting date, soil type, and region in the state. Some has burned up, while some is doing better than thought.
  • There is increasing concern for winter blowing dust and wind erosion with poor ground cover across western Kansas.  

2022 Statewide Accumulated Daily Precipitation

ap showing median year to date accumulated precipitation with percentiles of interest. 2022 is measuring 18.87 inches year to date, below the median of approximately 25 inches and just below the 10th percentile line.
Year-to-date statewide precipitation has fallen below the 10th percentile and is one of the driest on record. 2022 is running the 20th driest of the last 129 years. Source: ACIS. 

Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma is currently undergoing another significant dry spell—many areas have gone more than a month without at least a quarter-inch of rain in a single day. 
  • Above-normal temperatures have continued throughout September, adding to evaporative water stress.  
  • Twenty-three Oklahoma counties had implemented burn bans as of September 27, all but one in eastern Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma’s topsoil was considered 91% short or very short according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the highest levels seen in the state since 2012.

 

Many stations throughout Oklahoma have gone nearly a month or more with less than 0.25 inch of rainfall.
Number of consecutive days without at least 0.25 inch of rainfall in a single day for Oklahoma Mesonet stations. Source: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Texas

  • From January 1 through August 8, 2022, Texas averaged slightly more than 9 inches of precipitation, ranking it among the driest such periods ever. During the following 31 days alone, Texas averaged an additional 5 inches or so of precipitation.   
  • By the end of August, the Palmer Drought Severity Index had improved to -5.15, the ninth-worst for August. However, the end of September number is likely to be the third lowest for September since the 1950s drought.
  • Reservoir levels stabilized in August and early September, but have since resumed their decline. Current storage is more than 10% below the historic median and just 10% above the modern record low for this date. 

Texas Total Conservation Water Storage

Graph of total reservoir storage percent full, showing the 1990-2021 minimum, median, and maximum over the course of a year, along with values for 2011, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Total conservation water storage in Texas reservoirs as a percentage of total conservation storage capacity, for the indicated years. Data and graphics from the Texas Water Development Board.

New Mexico

  • Catron and Rio Arriba Counties, New Mexico, had their wettest summer (June, July, August) on record with 11.28 inches and 10.29 inches of precipitation, respectively, over the three-month period.
  • Precipitation through summer was split, with the western half of the state experiencing much-above-average precipitation while the eastern half of the state had below-average precipitation.

90-Day Standardized Precipitation Index

From July 1 to September 28, the eastern half of New Mexico experienced SPI values from 0 to -2, while western portions of the state experienced above-normal precipitation.
90-day Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) from July 1 to September 28, 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:

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

Matthew Sittel
Kansas Assistant State Climatologist, 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.