Lack of rainfall: impacts on Central Texas

Weather Blog

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

A lack of significant rainfall over the past 6+ months has put Central Texas in a worsening drought, impacting multiple variables and sectors (agriculture, fire danger, soil moisture content, etc.)

DROUGHT

The newest drought update issued Thursday, January 23rd shows little to no improvement in drought conditions in our area. The majority of Austin-metro and surrounding counties now show ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ drought conditions (levels 2 & 3 of 5)… faring worse in parts of Llano and Burnet counties which face ‘extreme’ drought conditions (level 4 of 5).

Drought update – January 23rd 2020

Although Wednesday’s 0.5″ to 1″ of measured rainfall across our area is a step in the right direction, it’s unfortunately, not enough to pull us out of our current drought. We have quite a bit of ground to make up considering we finished last year with below-average precipitation at both of Austin’s official recording sites:

  • 2019 Camp Mabry precipitation: 31.86″ (-2.46″ below normal)
  • 2019 Austin-Bergstrom precipitation: 29.05″ (-5.55″ below normal)

What do we need? A good, soaking rainfall across Central Texas. Back-to-back rounds of +1″ rainfalls could get us on track to see noticeable improvements in our very dry soil.

The ‘Drought Monitor’ is a product of the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For the latest drought information across the US, click here.

SOIL MOISTURE

The most recent soil moisture calculations showed levels well short of normal, ranging 3.9″ to 6.3″ below average across Central Texas.

Calculated Soil Moisture Anomaly showing well below average soil moisture across Central Texas valid January 22nd 2020

Soil moisture calculations are a product of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, click here for more.

WATER RESTRICTIONS

The City of Austin is currently under CONSERVATION STAGE water restrictions. Limitations defined by the city:

  • You may water only on your assigned day(s) and times.
    • Residential
      • Hose-end Sprinklers – ​two days per week – midnight to 10 a.m. and/or 7 p.m. to midnight
      • Automatic Irrigation -one day per week – midnight to 10 a.m. and/or 7 p.m. to midnight (Residential customers may also water a second day with a hose-end sprinkler)
    • Commercial / Multi-family / Public Schools
      • ​Hose-end Sprinklers or Automatic Irrigation – ​​one day per week – midnight to 10 a.m. and/or 7 p.m. to midnight
  • Wasting water is prohibited
  • Washing vehicles at home is permitted with an auto shut-off hose or bucket
  • Charity car washes may only be held at a commercial car wash
  • Fountains must recirculate water
  • Restaurants may not serve water unless requested by a customer
  • Patio misters at commercial properties (including restaurants and bars) may only operate between 4 p.m. and midnight
  • Commercial power/pressure washing equipment must meet efficiency requirements
Conservation Stage guidelines for the City of Austin

For more information on assigned watering days, exemptions, etc., click here.

BURN BANS

Despite any recent soaking rain, there are currently no burn bans in place for our area. Burn bans are issued by local government (county judge or county commissioners) to restrict or prohibit outdoor burning for public safety.

Burn Bans – valid January 23rd 2020

For more information on current burn bans in Texas, click here.

OUTLOOK – BETTER OR WORSE?

Unfortunately, any immediate hope for improvement looks grim. Our most recent rainfall outlook shows the likelihood of drier than normal conditions for the end of January into the start of February.

Two week outlook valid January 30th to February 5th (issued January 22nd)

However, the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for drought tendency (or future trend) is forecasting an improvement or, best case scenario, removal of drought in our area over the next 3 months.

‘Drought Tendency’ outlook valid mid-January through end of April favors drought improvement or removal for much of Central Texas.

Whether above, below or right at normal rainfall levels, it is important for all to do their part in conserving water. Here is a helpful link of ways you and your family can conserve in your home –> click here.

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