Drought has been a constant companion for Southwest residents for the last three years—and counting. In 2011, Texas set a record for hottest summer and driest year. Some farmers reported less than one inch of precipitation for the entire year.
Some recovery occurred in 2012 and 2013 but precipitation levels remain below average and the deficit continues to increase. Reservoirs across much of the region remain at historically low levels with some lakes at zero capacity.
Despite the drought, some farmers have made decent yields in some areas, but even irrigated land has not produced to typical levels in many cases, especially in 2011 when prolonged heat and near constant wind pulled moisture out of the soil almost as fast as farmers could apply it.
Long term potential, say meteorologists, is not promising. Most experts predict the Southwest will remain in drought conditions well into 2014 and that the dry trend could persist for another five years or more.
Bryan Rupp, and on air meteorologist in Wichita Falls, Texas, says farmers and ranchers will learn to adapt to hotter, dryer conditions. Climate change, he says is real, and whether it is natural or manmade makes no difference.
Learning to adjust will be the key.
Here are some visual reminders of how dry the last few years have been.