If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
From Texas A&M AgriLife—
Despite rains in parts of Texas and more in the immediate forecast, summer 2020 looks like it will be especially dry and hot for most of the state, according to a Texas A&M Forest Service expert.
Brad Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services department head, said much of the state looks vulnerable to drought and potentially severe late-summer fire season.
Smith said parts of North Texas experiencing various levels of drought received noteworthy rains over the weekend with more rain in the forecast. A system of storms pushed south into Texas and delivered rain down to the Interstate 20 corridor.
But prior to the rains, the drought monitor indicated an emerging dryness across much of the state, Smith said. Other indicators, including rainfall deficit, drought change and fire activity maps, showed Texas was moving further into drought and entering wildfire season earlier than usual.
“The rains may help because we are seeing some significant amounts, but with conditions like what are expected as we get deeper into summer and temperatures rising, it may not be enough to keep vegetation, especially grasses, green,” he said.
The question is how much the most recent lines of storms and those in the immediate forecast will meet the moisture needs for specific areas as the state moves into the heart of summer, he said.
Several areas in the Rolling Plains district received much-needed moisture ranging up to five inches of rain. Other areas were still dry, and producers were hopeful to receive moisture from rain in the forecast.
Cotton producers continued planting, and some were preparing to replant due to an excess amount of rain and hail damages while Winter wheat was about 95% harvested. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good and continued to improve.
Smith said it would take consistent storm systems delivering rainfall across dry parts of the state to avoid drought in areas.
“The thing about summer in Texas is that it’s typically hot and dry,” he said. “There’s typically a rainfall deficit in most parts of the state, and so combining that with hot and dry conditions means it will be hard to build up soil moisture.”
Smith said West Texas, which historically catches rainfall during monsoon season – late-May through mid-June – slipped further into drought.
Meanwhile, South Texas and parts of the Coastal Bend, which were experiencing severe to extreme drought in early spring, have received rainfall that has completely changed conditions.
But Smith is not convinced there will be enough rain in some areas to avoid severe drought through July and August. He said an upper-level weather pattern looks like it will create a high-pressure system that could prevent northern storms from delivering rain to Texas, especially in the southern areas.
“A high-pressure system can act like a forcefield that keeps storms out,” he said. “So, barring tropical storms forming and delivering rainfall, I’m not optimistic about outlooks for July and August.”
Outlooks also are calling for above-normal temperatures, which will contribute to soil moisture maintenance and evapotranspiration in plants and grasses, he said. In high temperatures, it doesn’t take long for plants and grasses to begin stressing, wilting without rain.
Smith said the Texas A&M Forest Service is concerned arid weather will create conditions for a severe late-summer wildfire season. Usually upticks in fires begin in mid- to late-July.
But state officials are tracking rising numbers of wildfire ignitions around the state already. Since June 9, Texas A&M Forest Service and local fire departments responded to 90 wildfires that burned a total of 21,692 acres. Many of the wildfires were sparked by equipment use, welding, mismanaged debris burning and roadside starts.
“The fire season has begun earlier than usual, and rainfall outlooks don’t look significant,” he said. “A tropical pattern could change everything, but all the signals are pointing to a hot, dry summer.”