AUSTIN (KXAN) — While it is impossible to be certain, the beginning stages of our next drought may already be underway. Only .27 inches of rain has fallen at ABIA this month, .17 inches at Camp Mabry. September was also drier than normal in Austin, with two inches of rain at Mabry—nearly an inch below normal.
With little chance of rain for the rest of the month, it is likely this October will be the 9th driest since 1891 in Austin, and 5th driest since records began at ABIA in 1942. This is a stark contrast to last October—the wettest month on record at the airport, where more than 21 inches of rain caused deadly, damaging flash flooding.
Why the difference?
The wet weather pattern, El Niño warmed the Pacific Ocean, sending rain making systems across Texas from 2015 through spring of this year. Now the El Niño has faded away, and is on the verge of being replaced by its opposite, a La Niña pattern, which can suppress rainfall across Texas, often leading to drought development.
Based in part on the developing La Niña pattern, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is forecasting conditions that may lead to less-than-normal rainfall from November through next spring. Warmer-than-normal weather is also forecast during this period.
The weekly Drought Monitor issued Thursday depicts “moderate drought” conditions have returned to a small portion of Fayette County. Elsewhere, drought conditions are not currently affecting Central Texas, but an expanding area of “abnormally dry” soil conditions has spread into counties north and east of Austin. Without normal rainfall, this area will also soon transition to “moderate” drought—the first stage in what could become yet another significant Texas dry spell, reducing lake and aquifer levels, and prompting increasing watering restrictions in 2017.
The good news?
Even if the La Niña develops, a drought is not a sure thing. While we do not currently see any signs of any significant wet weather patterns, it only takes one or two major storm systems (which can develop randomly) to replenish our soil moisture, keeping the drought at bay. This is especially true during the late fall and winter, when evaporation rates are low.
Bottom line, even if this isn’t it, our next drought is usually just around the corner, and year-round water conservation efforts are always wise.