Droughts and fire

Towercam views of hazy smoke (KPRC)

You’ll remember just a week ago we were smelling wildfire smoke here in Houston from the East Wing Complex fires.

Strong westerly winds pushed the smoke our way. Clearly one of the causes is the drought that has now set up across the state. To be sure, Houston itself is doing pretty well -- a little dry in spots -- but since September we’ve had more than 31″ of rain which is 4″ above our normal. In fact, look how well the whole state was just six months ago:

Very little drought last September

Yellow indicates just abnormally dry and by most standards we were pretty drought-free. All in all, not bad. But look where just a half a year can put you:

West Texas to Central Texas has Severe to Exceptional drought

Severe to Exceptional drought covers most of the state with the exception being our eastern side, with 18 million Texans being affected (there are 29 million of us, by the way). No relief looks to come anytime soon. The forecast for Texas and much of the country calls for continued drought:

courtesy NOAA

The Problem

As you know, we’ve had a beautiful March with, generally, clear blue, dry skies and cool temperatures. That is great weather for spring break vacations, but not so much for curing a drought. And we may get into a positive feedback situation with negative results: dry weather leads to warmer weather which leads to more dry weather which leads to more warm weather, et cetera. That dry-warm pattern became very serious in 2011. The forecast the next three months has temperatures ABOVE normal with rainfall BELOW normal:

April through June temperatures are expected Above normal
April through June Outlook is DRY

There is hope for more rain next week but that will break out along the dry line and move east which means West Texas will not benefit from it.

On a happier note, the weekend is here and it does look beautiful, a perfect canvas for the Bayou City Art Festival at Memorial Park. Enjoy!


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About the Authors:

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

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.