2010-2011 Drought becomes the 2nd worst drought in State History!
Summer of 2011 (Jun-Aug) the hottest ever for the state of Texas!
La Nina develops again in the central Pacific…indications suggest this drought will continue into 2012 (a multi-year event)
The current Drought Monitor shows an astounding 81% of the state in exceptional drought or the worst category. 95% of the state is either in exceptional or extreme drought. Rainfall deficits across southeast Texas are now approaching 25-30 inches since last October and nearing 40 inches at Galveston since Hurricane Ike. These are staggering deficits, none of us have seen such large rainfall departures in our lifetime.
Current PDSI values fell from -7.12 in July 2011 to -7.75 in August 2011 making this drought now the 2nd worst on record. Listed below are the worst droughts and their PDSI values:
February 1 to Sept 3 rainfall (driest ever by far for IAH, Hobby, College Station):
HOUSTON HOBBY STATION
5.95 2011 7.21 2011 7.93 2011
12.50 1917 14.30 1956 9.39 1925
14.03 1901 16.41 1963 11.73 1988
14.93 1930 16.48 1953 11.86 1917
15.29 1951 17.18 1998 13.06 1937
Note: For BUSH IAH to move to 2nd place a staggering 6.55 inches of rainfall would be required and for Hobby 7.09 inches. This is an incredible record.
Rainfall Departures from October 1, 2010 to September 3 are:
College Station: -23.18
BUSH IAH: -26.72
Corpus Christi: -18.94
Rainfall Departures since Hurricane Ike:
BUSH IAH: -27.39
Hobby Airport: -32.81
College Station: -27.61
It was already bad before Labor Day weekend, but then came the strong winds and dry air on the backside of TS Lee bringing horrendous fire weather conditions to the state. Since November 15, 2010, 3.6 million acres have burned across the state (old record was 2.1 in 2006) in 19,605 wildfires, with 4,376 structures lost. 48,613 structures have been threatened and saved. In the last 7 days alone, 181 fires have burned 166,45 acres across the state.
Elevated to at times critical fire weather conditions will continue until widespread wetting rains fall over the entire region. If rains do not fall, the state will have critical fire weather conditions behind each cold frontal passage this fall under strong and dry north winds which will promote rapid wind driven wildfires.
This is the worst fire weather conditions we have ever faced and additional fires similar to the Bastrop fire will become increasingly common if no rain falls.
Currently 251 out of 254 counties have burn bans in place, effective last week it is prohibited to start a BBQ in any City of Houston Park.
Crop and livestock losses stand at 5.2 billion dollars
During the summer of 2010 hay was selling for 12 dollars per ton, today it is selling for 170 dollars per ton.
There is little to no vegetation left for livestock to feed on. Hay is being trucked into the region from the SE US and the central plains to substitute for the lack of vegetation locally. Un-irrigated vegetation is now either dead of close to being dead. KBDI values are nearly 750-800 across every county in the area. At values of 800, there is no longer any water in the top 8 inches of soil and all vegetation with roots in this layer will begin to die. It is interesting to note that Bastrop County has a KBDI value of 790, the highest in the area. KBDL values can also be used to determine fire spread and growth potential and anything over 700 is considered critical. The following is the KBDI value for selected counties:
Fort Bend: 751
San Jacinto: 771
The extreme short term dryness coupled with the record and long lasting heat of this summer is also resulting in the loss of millions of trees across the area. It is estimated that at least 1.2 million trees have died in the last 3 months in the 8 county area around Houston. The Texas Forest Service estimates that between 26-64 million trees are currently at risk of dying from the current conditions or about 10-12% of the canopy coverage in this area. 6.6 million trees were lost to Hurricane Ike, so on the low end, the current drought may kill 4-5 times more trees than Ike. In Memorial Park alone 2,800 trees have died. In central Texas, live oak and cedar trees are starting to die from lack of water. Without sustained soaking rainfall all vegetation will continue to suffer and the area landscape will continue to decline.
Wildlife is also being greatly affected across the entire region as water sources have been depleted. There is no longer enough water to sustain wildlife in rural areas and significant losses are starting to occur especially with respect to turtles, deer, and ground forage animals. In lakes and streams where water has dried up all fish supplies have been lost.
Strong evaporation rates from high temperatures and gusty winds continue to result in rapidly declining lake levels across the state. Decreases on capacity in the last 3 weeks has been 5-10% across many of the water supply systems. A total of 583 water supply systems have mandatory water restrictions in place with an additional 294 under voluntary restrictions. LCRA is reporting that the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes chain from Jan-July 2011 was only 10% of average, or the lowest ever recorded since the completion of Lake Travis in 1942. This poor inflow combined with incredible evaporation rates (122,000 acre feet) from Jan-July is resulting in significant losses on the water supply lakes. Based on the current lack of inflow into the lakes, strong evaporation, and demand, the lakes will continue to decline by about 1 foot per week into early October.
Lake levels below conservation pool and current capacity:
Lake Conroe: -5.30 (77%)
Lake Houston: -7.60 (61%)
Lake Buchanan: -27.36 (43%)
Lake Travis: -48.38 (39%)
Toledo Bend: -11.00 (61%)
Lake Livingston: -3.10 (86%)
Lake Somerville: -9.39 (43%)
Lake Georgetown: -22.61 (39%)
Sam Rayburn: -12.22 (59%)
No rain is forecast for the next 5 days, with maybe a 20% chance of rainfall over this upcoming weekend. With La Nina conditions developing again, and the tropical threat appearing to end for Texas, a warm and dry fall, winter, and spring appears to be in store for the state. 1 and 3 month forecasts from CPC show below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures through the end of 2011. The current drought will be maintained or worsen and conditions will continue toward critical levels.