Are we in for a drought?


We go through dry periods and, as you know, we can get soakers around here that fix a no-rain situation pretty quickly. In fact, Tropical Storm Beta in September dropped an easy 6-8 inches of rain in our area. However, at the official Houston reporting station, Bush Airport IAH, we haven’t had significant rainfall since September 23rd!

Last Thursday’s drought monitor shows abnormally dry to severe drought conditions in SE Texas and Extreme drought in West Texas:

US Drought monitor showing abnormally dry to severe drought in our area
U.S. Drought monitor showing extreme and exceptional drought in West Texas.

By the numbers, Bush Airport had 0.67 inches of rain in all of October and so far this month only 0.06 for a whopping total of 0.73 inches! Our normal rainfall from Oct. 1 to now is 8.33 inches so clearly, that’s a deficit.

Other reporting locations don’t vary much: Hobby has had 1.31 inches of rain since October 1st while Sugar Land stands at 0.89 inches and Conroe at 1.05 inches.

Some perspective: our total rainfall for the year to date is 47.99 inhces and the normal is 48.56 inches, so in terms of the past 11 months, we’ve had average rain. But prolonged dry periods can turn into longer dry periods and that is the concern. La Niña is in full force in the Pacific -- I’ve circled the cooler water below:

La Nina is definitely in charge!

That cool water produces dry conditions for us, as opposed to El Niño (warmer water) which leads to rain and floods.

How long will La Niña last?

The latest computer models have La Niña around through spring, follow the red line:

The red line is below the solid black line until summer of 2021

So it’s no surprise that the climate forecasts for December through February have a big brown area across the southern US. Here’s our precip forecast into winter:

Dry Outlook

This shows better chances than not for below normal rainfall.

There are slight rain chances toward the end of this next weekend and we will have a murky Turkey week with persistent fronts moving across. We may get an inch or two of rain in spots. Let’s hope!


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.