Even with recent rainfall much of the Southwest remains locked into what must seem like perpetual drought to farmers and ranchers across the region.
Conditions vary from state to state and within states, with significant portions of both Oklahoma and Texas now considered drought free. But 100 percent of New Mexico remains in drought status ranging from abnormally dry to extreme. And conditions there have been consistent, showing the same 100 percent drought rating last week, up only slightly from 99.9 percent from three months ago and 99.86 percent a year ago.
More than 81 percent of the state is rated from moderate to extreme drought; 43 percent is considered severe to extreme, 8.6 percent is severe to extreme. No area is considered to be in exceptional drought status, an improvement over this time last year when 20 percent of New Mexico was in the most dire drought category.
In Oklahoma, 83.5 percent of the state is considered in abnormally dry to exceptional drought status. More than 72 percent is considered from moderate to exceptional; more than 48 percent is rated severe to exceptional; 16.7 percent is extreme to exceptional; and 2.6 percent is considered exceptional. But 16.5 percent of Oklahoma is considered drought free. The drought-free area is in Eastern Oklahoma, mostly in the Southeast corner of the state.
This time last year, 54 percent of the state was considered in abnormally dry to exceptional drought status with almost 46 percent of the state drought free.
Driest part of the state remains the southwest corner from around Lawton, running west and northwest up into the Panhandle along the Texas line. Several pockets still show exceptional drought.
But Randy Boman, OSU Research director and cotton Extension program leader at the Southwest Oklahoma Research and Extension Center in Altus, reports in the latest Cotton Comments newsletter that many areas in the persistently parched southwestern corner of the state “have received some excellent rainfall over the last month. Jackson County (which has borne the brunt of much of the drought over the last 3 years) wins the prize in western Oklahoma for the most Mesonet rainfall in the last 30 days with amounts over 7 inches.”
A Southwest Farm Press report earlier this week showed Texas conditions largely unchanged from a week earlier, except that reservoir storage decreased.
Texas remains at 58 percent in moderate to exceptional drought, same as a week ago.
Still, that’s a significant improvement from three months back when 74 percent of the state was in that same drought range and is far better than this time last year when 88 percent of the state was rated in moderate to exceptional drought.
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Worst conditions remain in the Texas Panhandle and into the Wichita Falls-Vernon area up into Southwest Oklahoma. Much of the Texas Panhandle is now in severe drought with significant areas in extreme drought and a few small areas considered exceptional.
Most of the rest of the state shows improving conditions, mostly in abnormally dry to moderate drought status. A large section in East Central Texas is drought free, as are smaller spots in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Far West Texas.
The latest drought report also indicates that an El Niño is projected to have a 70 percent chance of developing this summer and an 80 percent chance this fall and early winter.
“Sea surfaces continue to warm in the eastern equatorial area of the Pacific Ocean as El Niño becomes more and more likely,” the report says.