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2022 Southern Plains Drought and Heat Webinar

Event Date
July 21, 2022
Event Time
2:00 pm - 3:45 pm

The Southern Plains has been in extreme to exceptional drought since September 2021. This drought has been dynamic, changing almost month to month through the winter and spring. Intense heat and the rapid intensification of drought conditions through June and July made this webinar ever more timely. 

The 2022 Southern Plains Drought and Heat webinar, co-hosted by NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS0, provided the latest information on current drought, heat, and fire conditions and forecasts, local perspectives, and the serious impacts to diverse sectors of the economy and communities throughout the Southern Plains, as well as the ripple effect this has had across the country. 

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Introduction and Opening Remarks

Welcome to the Southern Plains Drought and Heat Webinar

Joel Lisonbee | NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder

  • Welcome to the 2022 Southern Plains Drought and Heat Webinar.
  • This webinar is hosted in partnership with NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS).
  • Any remarks not summarized here can be viewed in the full webinar recording on the NIDIS YouTube channel.



Drought and Heat Webinar Series: The Southern Plains

Dr. Sarah Kapnick, Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Watch the full remarks.



Introduction to NIHHIS

Juli Trtanj | Director, National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)



Introduction to NIDIS

Joel Lisonbee | NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

  • NIDIS was established by Congress in 2006.
  • NIDIS Mission:
    • Develop and provide a national drought early warning system
    • Coordinate and integrate as practicable, Federal research in support of a drought early warning system
    • Build upon existing forecasting and assessment programs and partnerships.
  • Purpose of today's webinar: Provide the most up to date information on drought conditions and response efforts in the Southern Plains. 
  • Learn more about NIDIS.



Drought, Heat, and Wildfire Conditions and Forecasted Outlook 

Antecedent and Current Drought Conditions

Victor Murphy | Climate Services Program Manager, National Weather Service (NWS) Southern Region

  • 93% of the Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) is in drought. 
  • New Mexico: A good start to the monsoon season has improved drought in New Mexico. 
  • Kansas: 23% of the state is in extreme (D3) drought or worse. 
    • Intense daytime and nighttime heat and low rainfall totals have caused problems for agriculture in the state.
  • Oklahoma has had two droughts. 
    • The first lasted from fall 2021 through spring 2022. 
    • A wet spring improved drought conditions temporarily.
    • Drought returned rapidly (i.e., flash drought) in June and July 2022.
  • Texas: 12% of the state is in extreme (D3) drought or worse.
    • 12,000 acres have burned in wildfires in Texas this summer.
    • The April–June period was the hottest on record for the state.



Looking Forward: Latest Climate Prediction Center Outlooks for Temperature, Precipitation, Drought, and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Jon Gottschalck | Chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA / NWS / Climate Prediction Center

  • Above-normal temperatures are most likely for the Southern Plains during days 8–14 (late July to early August) with the potential for hazardous heat in some areas prior to and during this period. 
  • For August, above-normal monthly mean temperatures are most likely, with the highest odds for eastern Oklahoma and Texas.
  • For August–September, above-normal mean temperatures are most likely, with the highest odds in western Texas for the 3-month period.
  • A combination of factors, across timescales, supports drought persistence or potential drought development for the Southern Plains.
  • La Niña conditions are favored to remain through 2022.



The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity Climate and Health Outlook

Jenny Keroack  | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) was formed by E.O. 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” to reduce the impacts of climate change on the health of the American people.
  • OCCHE issues Climate and Health Outlooks to inform health professionals and the public on how our health may be affected in the coming month(s) by climate hazards and provide resources to take proactive action. 
  • Key takeaways for the Southern Plains from the July issue of the Climate and Health Outlook:
    • Counties in Texas (122), Kansas (37), Oklahoma (36), and New Mexico (15) are projected to have more than 5 heat exceedance days in July 2022. 
  • Resources to reduce the risks of different climate hazards are available on OCCHE’s website.



Monthly and Seasonal Wildfire Outlook for the Southern Plains

Nick Nauslar | National Interagency Coordination Center/National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services

  • There is high-risk significant fire potential for much of Southern Plains for at least the next week.
  • Much of the Southern Plains is forecast to have above-normal significant fire potential into fall.
  • There is potential, but critical fire weather events play integral role in realizing that potential.



Question & Answer



Thinking Bigger Than Here and Now

Drought and Agricultural Commodities  

Brad Rippey | USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board

  • The Southern Plains has seen intense droughts in the 1930s and 1950s and has seen many drought periods over the last two decades, including an intense drought in 2011–2012.
  • Cattle producers often auction off cattle to move them to greener pastures in times of drought.
  • The 2008 Farm Bill included drought metrics in the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP); since then, Texas and Oklahoma have relied on LFP more than any other states.
  • Commodity prices are currently high for cattle, wheat, corn, soybeans, and many other agricultural commodities. 
    • While the drought has contributed to high prices, there are also other factors, such as global supply and demand, climate, U.S. and global weather, economics, geopolitical instability, supply chains, etc.



The Future of Drought and Heat in the Southern Plains

John Nielsen-Gammon | Texas A&M University, Director of Southern Regional Climate Center, Texas State Climatologist

  • In the Southern Plains, annual average temperatures are about 1-2 ºF higher than what was observed in the early 20th century.
  • Climate projections show between 10 and 24 more days above 100 ºF compared to the 1981–2005 reference period. Summer 2022 is an example of what this increase may look like.
  • Projections of soil moisture show a decrease compared to the end of the last century.
  • Higher temperatures lead to more agricultural drought, contributing to lower rainfall, less storage in reservoirs, and changes in rainfall intensity.
  • The projected changes to temperature and rainfall in the Southern Plains are already taking place.   



Drought and Heat Impacts and Southern Plains Perspectives

Drought and Heat Impacts and Strategies from the City of Las Cruces 

Lisa LaRocque | Sustainability Officer, City of Las Cruces, New Mexico

  • From 1950 to today, the city of Las Cruces has experienced an increase in the number of days above 100 ºF and 105 ºF, which has also impacted water supply.
    • The number of days above 100 ºF has increased by 1 month per year.
    • The number of days above 105 ºF has increased by 3 days per year. 
  • The city is taking steps to adapt to the increased heat:
    • Using green infrastructure and shade to create cool corridors
    • Mapping the hottest parts of the city
    • Reflective “cool green” bike lanes
    • Community involvement and outreach to those living in pre-1970 housing
    • Targeted policy changes.



2022 U.S. Drought and Heat Agriculture Impacts 

Bradley D. Fuller | President & Owner, Western Horizons Corporation 

  • Kansas: The four “casualties” of drought in Kansas are
    • The winter wheat crop.
    • A substantially reduced corn crop in the state. It has been hot enough and dry enough that even irrigated crops are experience heat and water stress and irrigated yields are down for the year.
    • Reduced availability of irrigation water, including from groundwater.
    • Stressed milo (sorghum) crop. Kansas is the largest producer of milo (sorghum) in the U.S., which is a drought-resistant crop, but this drought is bad enough that even the milo crop is stressed this year.
  • Oklahoma:
    • Oklahoma is experiencing a flash drought.
    • Much of the state has seen over 40 consecutive days with less than 0.25 inches of rainfall.
    • The Fractional Water Index has dropped from near-saturation to near-zero within 1 month.
  • Feed hay is scarce and expensive.
  • Farmers are feeling a squeeze on their bottom line and relying on crop insurance and livestock LFP from the USDA Farm Service Agency.



Question & Answer



Closing Remarks

Joel Lisonbee | NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

Juli Trtanj | Director, NOAA/NIHHIS


Key Partners

The 2022 Southern Plains Drought and Heat Webinar assembled stakeholders, decision makers, and drought experts for an informational webinar on drought conditions and response efforts in the Southern Plains. This webinar was co-hosted by NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) in collaboration with NOAA’s National Weather Service, USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, along with Federal, Tribal, State, and local partners.