Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Metz, in the service’s first online drought webinar — they are planned monthly — said the current drought is the driest since records have been kept — drier than 1917, the 1930s or the 1950s.
So far this year, precipitation levels for Bee, Goliad, Refugio, Live Oak, Karnes and McMullen counties all are 65 percent below normal.
The severity of the drought is indicated by calculating that the chances of such a dry spell occurring is about 2 percent. “This has never happened before,” Metz said.
Another measure is lake levels. Choke Canyon is 42 percent of capacity; Lake Corpus Christi is at 15.8 percent of normal.
The drought condition map shows Bee County suffering from an extreme drought; counties directly south are in the exceptional, or highest, drought condition.
“Summer isn’t here yet,” Metz said, “and already we’re in extreme drought.” The Keetch-Byrum Drought Index (KBDI — used to measure soil moisture) is between 500 and 600, and 93 counties in the state already have instituted burn bans.
Equally alarming is the Weather Service’s long-range forecast, which mostly hinges on water temperatures in the Pacific.
If the waters are cool, known as La Nina, the jet stream shifts to the northern areas of the United States, which results in less rain in South Texas.
If the waters are warm, known as El Nino, the jet stream moves over Texas, bringing with it a higher chance for moisture.
But the extended forecast maps are labeled EC — equal chance. “Equal chance,” Metz said, “means it’s anybody’s guess.”
Meaning, drought conditions are expected to persist or to get worse through next winter.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.