Texas is currently experiencing the worst drought conditions since 2011, which affected 95% of the state and caused over $7 billion in losses.
The current drought has claimed 85% of Texas as of April 5, affecting almost 18 million Texans. Over 40% of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional levels of drought, compared to 11% only three months ago.
Rainfall in the coming months will play a decisive role in drought conditions for the rest of the year.
“That’s going to make all the difference as to whether we have a major drought this summer,” Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said. “You can easily get a wet May that would eliminate drought in the region, or this could be the beginning of a multiyear drought.”
For the past seven months, Texas has seen a 50% reduction in expected average rainfall, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
Droughts increase the likelihood of wildfires and the danger they pose.
“We’re reaching the core of wildfire season and conditions look relatively dangerous over the upcoming week because of the dry weather and strong winds,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “If we managed to get several inches over the next month, that will at least provide some decent amounts of topsoil moisture to reduce the fire risk.”
Water shortages will continue to worsen should current weather conditions continue. Crop and livestock productions are already suffering.
“Drought, it’s going to have a huge impact on crop production for a lot of our crops that can reduce yield, It can potentially delay harvesting, or just can add a lot of challenges,” said Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension forage specialist. “For livestock producers, when we have drought conditions, that obviously decreases forage production, so that can increase their demand for hay or needing to feed their animals with supplementation.”
While some droughts are short-lived, most will last for months to years. The most recent Texas drought ran from the fall of 2010 to the winter of 2014.
Nielson-Gammon expects increased temperatures, rainfall, flooding, hurricane severity, and drought severity by 2036.