El Niño has fulfilled the prophecies that climatologists, meteorologists and other weather observers have made since last spring. Fall rain has broken the drought that set in following heavy springtime rainfall and moved almost all the Southwest region out of drought status. Predictions indicate the weather phenomenon will continue through winter, possibly until late spring before diminishing.
Less than 1 percent of Texas is now considered in drought status. Wichita Falls shows as moderate drought; the rest of the state shows mostly drought-free with scattered areas throughout the state considered abnormally dry. No areas rate higher than moderate.
That one small blip in Wichita Falls puts Texas at 0.6 percent in drought status. Last week, only 4.3 percent of the state was considered in drought, compared to 18 percent three months ago and 44 percent this time last year.
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Current reservoir storage also has improved and stands at 3.5 percentage points above normal for this time of year, according to the latest report from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). That storage figure also represents a 20 percent improvement over this time a year ago.
Oklahoma conditions continue to improve as well with only 16.21 percent of the state considered in drought status, and that, as in Texas, is only in moderate drought. Almost 52 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry and 46.3 percent is drought free. Drought conditions exist on the Southwest corner, just north of the Wichita Falls, Texas, drought area, and also in a small band running from north central Oklahoma to the Kansas State line. At this time last year, 64 percent of Oklahoma was in moderate to exceptional drought status.
New Mexico reports 6.2 percent of the state in moderate drought, consisting of a band running through four of the most northwestern counties. Eight counties, mostly in that same region, are considered abnormally dry, as is one small area in the south central part of the state near the Texas state line. The rest of the state, 74 percent, is considered drought free. A year ago, 63 percent of the state was in moderate to extreme drought.
El Niño appears to be responsible for the improved drought status—or lack of drought—across the Southwest. Observers expect El Niño to peak toward the end of this year and “ebb away by late spring,” the TWDB report indicates.