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Drought Has Stranglehold on West; Southeast Sees Relief

By Daniel Yawitz and Andrew Freedman

The extended drought continues to choke the Western half of the country, with water supply concerns rising in New Mexico and Texas as anxiety about another bone-dry summer is raised. This week, the dryness grew worse in Texas while expanding into California, Montana, and Oregon, so that most of the land west of the Mississippi River was under some form of drought conditions, according to Thursday's update to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Cracks in the parched ground in Texas during the first summer of drought there in 2011. The drought in Texas continues, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Credit: Flickr/AgriLifeToday.

Conditions in the Great Plains remain dire: parts of eastern Texas are facing rainfall shortages on the order of 8-16 inches. Reservoir levels in Donley County, in the Texas Panhandle, were 12 inches below normal. Cimarron County, Okla., has gone 100 consecutive days with less than a quarter inch of rainfall. Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of about 100,000, has been added to the state's list of communities that may run out of water within 180 days, although city managers don’t think that is likely. According to reporting by the Texas Tribune, Wichita Falls will likely enact unprecedented water restrictions by the end of the summer, which would ban the filling of swimming pools, restrict car-washing businesses, and affect industrial water users.

Texas has endured drought conditions since the sweltering summer of 2011, and weather outlooks do not show a return to wetter conditions for the spring and summer. Studies have shown that climate change has likely aggravated the Texas drought and conditions elsewhere by making it hotter than they otherwise would be, thereby helping to dry soils faster. Scientists have also found that drought is more likely to occur in parts of the U.S. when there are cooler-than-average waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, a setup that has been in place since last spring.

Further west, despite a wet start to the year, northern California and southern Oregon are exhibiting signs of unseasonable dryness. Precipitation deficits have left a light snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and consequently, spring runoff is forecasted to be low this year. Both of those developments also lead to concerns about early season wildfires.

In the meantime, continued above-average rainfall over the Southeast has led to dramatic reductions in the drought’s impact in Georgia and South Carolina. The area of severe drought in both states has been completely eliminated; it's the first time both states have been free from “severe” drought since September 2010. That is a dramatic change since just eight weeks ago. On January 29th, 43 percent of Georgia was under “extreme” drought or worse. Rains from this week also eased drought conditions in Florida, which had been steadily developing severe drought conditions since the start of the water year.

Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

In response to the ongoing drought conditions and low snowpack in Colorado, Denver’s water authority imposed mandatory restrictions on water use this week, reported Bloomberg news. The last time Denver officials restricted water use due to drought was in 2002.

Low water levels in New Mexico, which has been particularly hard-hit over the past year, continues to place pressure on local farmers. This week, farmers in the southwestern state pressured the state to issue a “priority call,” that would give farmers priority access to the already scarce water supplies before it is pumped into cities for municipal use, the New York Times reported.

The West and Southwest is likely to face long-term drought concerns as climate change leads to warmer spring and summer temperatures, at the same time as population growth is putting a strain on available water supplies. For example, a federal report released in December 2012 found that due to climate change, drought, and population growth, water demand in the Colorado River Basin – which supplies water to nearly 40 million people in seven Western states, including New Mexico – will greatly exceed supplies.

According to the Spring Weather Outlook released by NOAA last week, drought is expected to continue to deteriorate and expand in the Western and Southwestern states for the rest of the season, while additional relief is forecast for the Southeast.

The Drought Monitor, a product of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USDA, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, quantifies the impacts of short- and long-term drought across the U.S. It is updated every Thursday.

Related Content
Drought and Floods in NOAA’s ‘Mixed Bag’ Spring Outlook
Ongoing Coverage of U.S. Drought
Interactive: The Top 10 Hardest-Hit States for Crop Damage
Wet Times Are Masking New York’s Real Drought Risk
Drought Has Ties to La Niña, With Global Warming Assist


By lorenzo (san luis obispo ca)
on March 28th, 2013

could it be the geoenginering? every time a pacific storm is set to come in we get sprayed day and night on the central coast of California for 2 to three days if fact the last few days 25th 26t 27th we had 100’s of planes geoengineering the pacific coast it was so bad it created cloudy windy condition you could see it coming down..there are several 100 government documents on this even including the contracts, congressional testimony, Harvard scientist .over 50 govt. agency’s involved read .the best website if fond was

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By Wily (Kansas City 64114)
on March 28th, 2013

Many of us do not believe in man (peasant) made global warming because the whole solar system is acting (heat) up but do believe in weather wars! Here in the mid mid west we’ve had 3 lg snows in March, a local weather person tried to say it was not unusual only to get blasted by the peasants calling them (weather intertainer) idiots! We expect spring flooding then drought about the time crops need it most! The powers that be will learn the hard way that they are clueless of whats been preordained!
Of coarse they are geoenginering, only the fool would continue doing what they are doing! The very same plagues of Egypt Pharoh will plague them, that’s right, even if the container is sealed!
The camel dung might stay fresh until the middle of the ‘week’ !

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By Adam Cameron
on March 29th, 2013

Real precient, building cities in the desert.

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By Barry (Los Angeles, CA 90034)
on March 30th, 2013

I have witnessed extreme geoengineering operations on an ever increasing scale for over a decade now. In Los Angeles, I have seen natural clouds in the morning just seem to dry up as the chem-spray planes displace them with persistent jet contrails that become the very unnatural clouds that can blanket the entire city and beyond. Interesting how the drought in the West became noteworthy around the same time that the chemtrails were first seen and documented, around 1999-2000.

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By shirin chaina (India)
on April 1st, 2013

In recent times the world has witnessed global warming, climate change and natural disasters of unprecedented proportions. We have frequent oil spills across various oceans destroying vegetation, plants and marine life, even sea birds fully covered in oil and dirt and dying as cannot fly. So many trees are felled down, totally disturbing ecology of the world, hill sides broken down in pictureque valleys for man’s greed for more land to build townships,resorts and shopping centres/malls.

As oceans are polluated with oil spills often,  water evaporation declines.If water is polluted, the plants that emit oxygen perish, and so there is a decrease of oxygen on Earth. Nature can respond to mankind’s bad behaviour in any other way too. How it decides to respond need not be the same as the way in which mankind has affected it .If we do not change our ways such as reducing carbon emissions), it is inevitable that we will continue to experience the effects of global warming, unprecedented natural disasters and catastrophic conditions.

It is esential to take quick remedial measures to decrease pollution of air, water, emissions from factories, only then global warming and all the problems will be on the way out.

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