What is in this article?:
- It’s still officially dry in Texas.
- While scientists have determined 2011 was the driest year on record, economists estimate it was also the costliest drought ever recorded.
- Rains throughout the state over the last two months seem to have improved prospects for some, but soil moisture profiles are still short.
According to Byrd, another factor adding to the severity of the drought during the 2011 growing season was record breaking high temperatures during the months of June through August. The daily temperature average at Lubbock was 83.4 degrees Fahrenheit where the 30-year average is normally 78.7 degrees. The daily high temperature at Lubbock during this same period was 97.8 degrees and the 30-year average is normally 91.0 degrees.Many daily high temperatures reached well over 100 degrees for several consecutive days during this period as well.
Although spring winds are not unusual for the High Plains of Texas, the excessive heat combined with high winds was a mixture that also contributed significantly to the depletion of what little moisture was retained in the soil. During this period wind speeds averaged daily about 9.7 miles per hour during the months of April, May, and June, which is higher than most years. Peak wind speeds during this period were in excess of 40 miles per hour.
Throughout the year the percent plant available soil moisture was extremely low. Soil moisture levels are measured at the SCAN sites as a water volume fraction and multiplied by 100 and shown as a percent range. In general the 35 to 45 percent range is a very wet or saturated soil profile; 15 to 35 percent is a moist or very moist soil profile at field capacity with available plant moisture; less than 15 percent is a soil that is very dry or at permanent wilting point with no available plant moisture in the profile.
The average rooting zone for annual crops grown on the High Plains is typically between 2 and 40 inches. For a period of the year, this zone was at permanent wilting point with zero available plant moisture. Perennial plants, trees and shrubs will root to greater depths, but soil moisture levels at 60 to 80 inches range from wilting point to the low end of available plant moisture.
Rains throughout the state over the last two months seem to have improved prospects for some, but soil moisture profiles are still short. As the spring planting season is about to begin, farmers remain concerned for what the future holds.
For more information about the NRCS Soil Survey program in Texas, visit http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/soil/.