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The drought that has gripped southwest Oklahoma and the Texas Rolling Plains for the last three plus years is likely to persist in 2014.
Deficits add up
He said the current drought began in 2010 and 2011. Conditions deteriorate every year, even with some improvement in precipitation. In 2011, Texas rainfall accumulation was 26 percent of normal. That’s a 74 percent deficit and much of West Texas and Northern Oklahoma received only 7 inches of annual precipitation. Conditions improved a lot in 2012. Total precipitation was 69 percent of normal, or only a 31 percent deficit. But that came on top of a 74 percent shortage. In 2013, the area received more than 70 percent of normal rainfall, about 20 inches of precipitation. “But that also came on top of two deficits, so it adds up.”
Rupp said from the beginning of the decade, 2010, through 2013, total precipitation deficit stands at 45 percent of normal. “That means we’re down 40 inches. We need that much precipitation just to get back to normal.”
Making up that much would require significantly more than a year or two of normal rainfall, which doesn’t seem likely anyway. A large snowfall event would help, but February is the last real chance for that to occur and odds are not favorable. A hurricane on the gulf coast that moves inland and sets over Texas for several days would be another opportunity to make up some of the deficit. “That would be bad for folks along the coast but good for us,” Rupp said. He also noted that rain from a hurricane is a “long shot.” Hurricane predictors say 2014 is likely to be a relatively light hurricane year.
What’s more likely is that conditions continue to deteriorate with high summer temperatures and low rainfall continuing. Also more likely will be more dust storms and more wildfires.
He also referred to the Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service, that at one time was not noted for accuracy. But in 2008 and 2009 the center began predicting higher temperatures and precipitation way below normal. And they “were right. We now see credibility and watch their predictions,” Rupp said.
Their forecasts include something close to normal precipitation for 2014, but Rupp says precipitation estimates were a bit off last year so he errs on the side of about 15 percent below normal precipitation. The center also predicts “above” to “much above” normal temperatures. Above normal would be a five-degree increase; much above normal would be 10 degrees higher. A “very much above normal” category means 15 degrees higher.
The Climate Prediction Center calls for 2014 temperatures to range from above normal to much above normal. An average July temperature of about 97 degrees would mean an increase to 103 degrees at above normal, 107 at much above.
“So, we’re looking at 2014 to be five to 10 degrees warmer and below average precipitation — hot and dry.”