Another droughty summer forecast for West Texas
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – Though recent storms promised to reset the drought button for a large part of East Texas, the western half of the state will likely see below-normal precipitation from now through August, according to a Texas A&M University climatologist.
“We are looking for above-normal rainfall, and we’re not having an easy time finding it,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist, College Station.
Temperatures were expected to be above normal for all of the southern plains this summer, Nielsen Gammon said.
Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for May 21, 2013Two-minute MP3 Audio of Texas crop, weather for May 21, 2013
“The short-range and long-range outlooks are sort of opposites,” he said. “We’ve got decent chances of rain in West Texas over the next week or two, while the Gulf Coast is going to stay fairly dry. But over the summer, the outlook from the Climate Prediction Center has the best chances for rain being along the Gulf Coast with drier conditions in West Texas.”
Nielsen-Gammon noted a few months ago no one was predicting the widespread swings in temperature and late freezes. However, he believes Texas has seen the last of abnormally low temperatures, and that warmer weather is back on track.
The reason for the cold fronts was likely due to above-normal snow cover in the northern hemisphere, he said.
“It was the first time in more than a decade that the springtime snow cover has been above normal,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “That means cold air can stay cold a lot longer on its way down to Texas.”
So far, the entire state has had below-normal rainfall for May. Parts of West Texas may “luck out” the last of May because of “fairly active, dry-like convections” during the rest of the month, he said.
As for June, the coastal regions of Texas may be drier, he said.
“It’s because the Gulf of Mexico is so cool right now, but that’s just a hunch at this point,” he said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of June 13-19:
Central: Rains and severe storms, along with high winds and tornadoes, struck parts of the region. The rain was good for corn and sorghum, but the high winds and tornadoes damaged wheat and oats. There was from 10,000 to 20,000 acres of crop damage reported. Cotton emerged and looked good. Hay production was off to a good start. Stocker-cattle operators began shipping cattle to feedlots. There were reports of high number of flies on cattle and grasshopper infestations in fields.
Coastal Bend: Limited rainfall in some areas improved crop and pasture conditions, but warmer and very windy conditions were quickly diminishing soil moisture.
East: Most counties received some rain. The western part of the region received the most — as much as 4 inches. Eastern counties received from zero to 0.25 inch. Those areas that got rain saw improvement in pasture and rangeland conditions. Warm-season grasses were still slow to grow because of cool nighttime temperatures and moisture stress. Most of the hay baled to date has been of winter grasses. Blueberries were reported to have a 60 to 70 percent loss from the late freezes. Blackberries made good progress. Vegetable production increased, with onions and squash being harvested. Some livestock producers were still providing supplemental feed. Feral hogs were active.
Far West: Parts of the region received from 0.3 to 1 inch of rain. Generally, the weather remained hot and dry, and a lot more rain was needed to make any difference in the agricultural situation. Pastures were in poor condition and without rainfall will become more and more stressed. Cotton producers were planting, and onions were progressing well.
North: After 0.75 inch to 3 inches of rain, soil-moisture levels ranged from short to surplus across the region. Highs were in the 80s to 90s, with nighttime lows in the 70s. Most wheat was in good condition and started turning color. Ryegrass headed out in some counties, and many producers were harvesting it for hay. Those who don’t plan to hay it were using it for grazing. Corn was growing fast rate, and sunflowers were in very good condition. Livestock were in very good condition as well, with calves growing fast thanks to the lush spring pastures. Pond levels were dropping in some counties. Grasshoppers were still immature but very numerous. Spider mites were a problem in Titus County. Warm-season grass growth was in high gear.
Panhandle: The region remained hot and dry. Soil-moisture levels were mostly very short to short. Irrigators were actively watering wheat and corn. Dryland wheat still showed damages from past freezes. Corn planting was proceeding, but emergence was slowed by cool soil temperatures. Cotton and sorghum planting began. Rangeland remained brown as if it were still winter, and was rated mostly very poor to poor, as were pastures. Yucca blooming was about 10 to 14 days away, and there was hope it would supply several weeks of nutrition. Flies were already bothering cattle.
Rolling Plains: Spring seemed to have skipped the region, as conditions moved directly from winter into summer. Temperatures were at or above 100 degrees for the past week. While some counties received little to no moisture, a few, including Parker, Wise and Palo Pinto counties, got as much as 4.5 inches. Along with the rain, some storms brought hail and damaging winds. Wildfires popped up in Palo Pinto County. In the western part of the region, producers feared yet another hot dry summer, and did not have a positive outlook for this year’s cotton crop. Cotton growers with irrigation began planting; a few dryland fields were also planted. Pastures and rangeland were in poor condition due to lack of moisture. The drought took its toll on livestock ponds and wells. Some livestock producers were considering drilling new, deeper wells and/or hauling water. Livestock required daily supplemental feeding. Hay supplies were dwindling fast for the beginning of summer. Most winter wheat was cut for hay. The peach crop was expected to be poor to fair.
South: Generally, the trend of strong winds, warm temperatures and scattered showers continued. Isolated showers in the northern parts of the region supplied a little moisture to range and pastures, but strong winds and high temperatures were beginning to deplete that moisture. In the eastern part of the region, there was limited improvement in rangeland and pasture. All but Jim Wells County reported very short soil-moisture conditions. In the western part of the region, soil-moisture levels remained very short, except for Dimmit County, where they were 50 percent adequate. In the southern part of the region, rangeland and pasture conditions improved considerably. Cameron and Willacy counties reported 50 to 85 percent adequate soil moisture. The rest of the southern counties had very short soil moisture conditions. In Frio County, the wheat, oats and potato harvests were ongoing, while the harvesting of green beans and sweet corn just began. Supplemental feeding was steady in McMullen County, with cattle body-condition scores fair to poor. Very few row crops remained in Frio County, with producers still contemplating whether it is worthwhile to harvest those crops that do remain. Though rangeland and pastures improved in Duval County, not many cattle remained to take advantage of the grazing. Maverick County producers were harvesting coastal Bermuda grass hay. In Zavala County, producers were irrigating sorghum, onions, pecans and corn. About 60 percent of wheat, onion and oats were harvested in Zavala County, while the corn and cotton harvest were progressing well. In Webb County, runoff from recent rains increased stock-pond levels. In Starr County, late-planted onion harvesting was going full swing.
South Plains: With highs in the upper 90s to 100, soil temperatures rose enough for planting. Cotton planting was in full swing throughout the region. Soils were still very dry, but many cotton producers pre-watered and were moving ahead anyway. Mitchell County reported the most significant rain of the week, from 0.9 inch to 2 inches. Most winter wheat has been either chopped for silage or baled for hay. Moisture remained a concern for most dryland producers. Corn emerged in some areas and was already taking a beating from dry winds, but was holding on. Although some dryland producers were skeptical of making a crop with the drought, some fields may have to be dry planted to meet crop insurance planting deadlines. Early planted grain sorghum survived the May 3 freeze, but showed foliar damage. Borden and Garza counties had from a trace to 0.6 inch of rain. Rangeland and pastures were helped by light rains, but will need a lot more to recover from the last couple years of drought and produce any forage. Cattle remained mostly in fair to good condition.
Southeast: Many areas received timely and needed rains, greening things up and improving conditions. Though soils remained fairly dry, warmer temperatures and the added moisture promoted forage growth. Walker County reported enough rain to refill ponds. In Waller County, the extra moisture helped cattlemen build confidence. In Chambers County, the weather remained dry, but this allowed rice growers to resume planting. Grain sorghum was is in poor condition there due to cool weather, and some rice fields had to be replanted. Fort Bend County reported scattered showers, with lows in the mid-50s and highs in the 70s. Galveston County had heavy rains. Liberty County received some much needed rain.
Southwest: There were reports of from a trace to as much as 2 inches of rain, along with some corn and wheat destroyed by hail. There were no reports of livestock or wildlife being injured by the hailstorms. Temperatures rose into the 90s. Thrips were an issue in some cotton fields.
West Central: Extremely dry, hot, windy conditions continued, though a few counties reported scattered showers. Hail accompanied some of the showers and damaged some wheat fields. Farmers continued preparing fields for planting, with some already planting summer annual and irrigated cotton. Other cotton farmers were waiting for rain and better soil moisture. Small grains were being cut and baled or grazed out. In most areas, very little wheat was suitable for harvesting. Rangeland and pasture conditions improved a little. Where there was rain, the warmer temperatures boosted the growth of warm-season grasses and forbs. Livestock were in poor to good condition, depending on location. Stock-water tank levels remained a major concern. Fly populations increased and were expected to be a problem all summer. Grasshopper populations were increasing. Pecan growers were spraying orchards.