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Texas drought conditions expected to continue, impact felt in some sectors of agriculture

Installed La-Nina Pattern points to drier and warmer than normal winter
Posted at 10:50 AM, Nov 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-28 11:50:36-05

WACO, TX — While you might not be able to tell by walking outside your doors this week, it has certainly been a warmer and drier than normal November in Texas.

"This month so far has certainly been warmer than normal and drier than normal," said Meteorologist Jason Godwin. "That's not to say we haven't had you know, any cool snaps. In fact, we have had a couple of freezes."

Godwin, who's a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Forth Worth Office, points to the La Nina weather pattern installed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

"We've seen La Nina conditions develop, which is basically we have a cooler than normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific and what that tends to result in is kind of shifts in weather patterns towards the North."

Godwin says that keeps the cold air from coming down across the Southern Plains which can allow for longer, sustained cold air outbreaks, which also presents drier Winters.

"We have certainly seen drier years, especially when you think back to 2011 which seems to be kind of the standard bearer for worst droughts in the state," Godwin said. "But now, out in West Texas, we have places like Lubbock, Midland, towards the Big Bend region are seeing very exceptional drought conditions out there."

The most recent drought monitor shows every county in Central Texas is experiencing some level drought with Brazos, Burleson, Madison, and Grimes Counties being on the far end, experiencing severe drought.

And these conditions can have a real impact on agriculture across the Lone-Star State. According to the most recent National Drought Summary, USDA reports showed topsoil moisture was short or very short across 69 percent of Texas.

Additionally, 38 percent of the winter wheat was in poor to very poor conditions across Texas. According to Gary Joiner of the Texas Farm Bureau, drought even at its lowest level has an impact on agriculture.

"During the Thanksgiving week, if you look statewide, about 99% of our state is dry in terms of a down year of moisture this time in November," Joiner said. "It still means it's going to be a challenge for farmers and ranchers to continue to produce with the what they anticipated to be normal moisture."

Joiner said cotton farmers are among those feeling the most from drought at the moment.

"In Texas, I think the largest crop impact is cotton," Joiner said. "Cotton and not only here in the Black Lands and the Brazos Valley, but up into the South Plains of Texas."

According to Joiner, Cotton is the most valuable commodity in Texas, and drought caused lower production and lower yields.

"And dry land growers in particular took a hit, some just had to not harvest their crop and that's unfortunate."

But the impact can go both ways, according to Joiner. In the Rio Grande Valley, where vegetables are growing in the ground and being planted, the clear dry days we've had are helpful.

"Our geography and climate is so unique from one end of the state to the other that drought is hurtful and helpful in the same state."

For cattle farmers, the outlook longer-term for what we can expect in regards to drought conditions will be a particular concern.

"A lot of people particularly in the cattle industry right now look ahead several months or half a year," he said. "They're anticipating what they might need because of drought."

Even with the recent rainfall, Texas still has a deep hole to climb out of in regards to drought conditions, according to Godwin.

"Over the last few months, it's been so dry that we're running as much as you know, three or four inches below normal over the last 60 to 90 days," Godwin explained. "And so when we are seeing some rain its just not enough to really make a serious improvement in those drought conditions."

The recent three-month outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, shows the dry and warmer than normal conditions will likely continue into spring 2021 in Texas.

"You might get a few stretches of a few days where you do get below normal temperatures and some precipitation, he said. "But averaged out over the next few months I would say it will more dry than wetter."