The latest National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) drought updates indicate Oklahoma and Texas continuing to push toward drought-free status with New Mexico at only 22 percent in moderate to exceptional drought in the western part of the state.
Oklahoma shows only part of two far-western Panhandle counties with light yellow shading indicating abnormally dry conditions. The rest of the state is in the white—drought-free—category.
Texas shows one small dot in the Northwest corner as moderate drought, with abnormally dry conditions one county up. A spot in Central Texas, including about ten counties, is also considered abnormally dry. The rest of the state is rated drought-free.
New Mexico shows only 25 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought status with only 4.12 percent in severe drought and less than 22 percent in moderate drought. The state is considered 49 percent drought-free.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) reports reservoir levels continue to rise but notes a few reservoirs remain below normal for the time of year.
TWDB also reports that El Niño is expected to persist well into winter. Predictions call for a 90 percent chance the weather pattern will continue through winter and give it an 80 percent chance of lasting into spring.
That’s supported by a new report from AccuWeather, which indicates El Niño this winter could be the strongest in the last 50 years. That could help California ease out of the drought, the report said, but not necessarily.
"El Nino has steadily strengthened over the past month and is now approaching strong category strength," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
"Confidence continues to grow that this El Niño will be one of the stronger El Niños over the past 50 years," Anderson said. "El Niño typically reaches its peak during the December through February period."
El Niño typically means more storms targeting California as the jet stream and resultant storm track dips southward across the state pulling in tropical moisture. The stronger the El Niño, the farther south the jet stream will dip.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno cautions that busting the California drought will take more than one strong El Niño winter.
"Current rain deficits are way too large," Rayno said. "Even if California receives the rain that fell in 1997-98, it will not come close to ending the long-term drought."