Thanks mostly to La Niña, the last nine months have been the driest ever in the southern central United States since records began in 1895, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service.
Unfortunately, NOAA/NWS experts said at a Thursday workshop in Austin, these conditions are not likely to improve drastically anytime soon, although some alleviation is forecasted.
In many locations, including West Texas, it would take 1.5 times to twice the average seasonal precipitation needed over the next three months to end the drought, NOAA/NWS Meteorologist Dan Collins said, and there is a five percent or less chance of the drought ending in three or even six months in West Texas.
Ninety-one percent of Texas is in extreme to exceptional drought, NOAA/NWS said, and the Climate Forecast System indicates a chance that La Niña could even re-emerge and extend the drought. NOAA's Klaus Wolter said that this winter could be dry with a La Niña rebound, which is more likely than not.
The drought has brought unprecedented consequences to the cotton crop.
For the first time ever, the High Plains is looking at a near 100 percent abandonment rate on dryland cotton. Some producers are shifting water from other crops to cotton, trying to salvage what they can of the 2011 irrigated crop, and making decisions that previous generations have not faced. The overall impact of the drought undoubtedly will be staggering across the agricultural industry, experts say.
Bob Rose with the Lower Colorado River Authority, which covers an area of Central Texas, said that if the drought continues through the winter, they could begin curtailing agricultural use in spring 2012 for the first time in their 77-year history.