Relentless drought continues to worsen

courtesy pixabay.com

I received this viewer email just the other day:

Dear Frank,

We live in Wharton County and have cattle. Our customers are farmers and ranchers. We watch you every evening. What is the forecast for drought and heat for the months this summer? We haven’t had rain in weeks in Wharton and Matagorda county and we are extremely dry.

Thank you for your time and answers!

Sarah

Wharton Feed and Supply LLC &

Lockley Land Improvements LLC

I can relate to this personally--both my mother and father’s families were Arkansas farmers, and I heard such concerns around the dinner table often. Too much rain, not enough, early freezes, late springs...farming and ranching is as weather dependent as you can get. This year has been brutal with rainfall falling short by 50-75% of normal! I did some rain research for our southern counties--Wharton, Matagorda, Jackson and Victoria--and you can see the various amounts since January 1 to now:

Normal rainfall by now is 15-16"

Normal rainfall is 15-16″ down that way by this point in May and you can see the shortfall. To make matters worse, that rain is mostly from the first three months of the year and those are not the growing season. NOW is the growing season and they need water. Look at April-May rainfall for the same locations:

This rainfall is pretty much just April. May has been bone dry

That translates to NO significant rain in six weeks. The area continues in Extreme Drought:

courtesy US Drought Monitor

And because misery loves company, I can tell you that 25% of Texas is worse having gone to EXCEPTIONAL drought which only occurs every 50 years. The Hill Country is recording the driest November to April on record (surely to include May pretty soon). You can see the progress of the drought across the state over the past year, going from none to where we are now:

A year ago we had virtually NO drought and even three months ago was tolerable

So to answer Sarah’s question honestly, the rest of the month shows me no significant rainfall. The climate forecast for the summer offers at least an equal chance of average rainfall from June to August (which would be around 5″ per month):

courtesy NOAA

You can see that the EXCEPTIONAL drought areas look to fare only worse. And, no, a healthy tropical storm does not cure drought and often gives us much more rain than we need. What happens? It just starts raining again. As for heat, it looks like the entire country is going to be above normal this summer:

courtesy NOAA

To answer Sarah’s question hopefully, I can tell you that my families farmed from the 1800s and made it through all of the hottest and driest and wettest and coldest. So hang in there and know that this won’t last forever! Let’s hope for a pattern change in the near future!

Have a safe weekend!

Frank

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About the Author:

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