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April 21, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Possible Texas Drought Relief…But Now Europe Is Worried

Wildfires continue to burn across the great state of Texas and unfortunately it now appears conditions are getting worse. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s report this morning, the entire state is now under at least a moderate drought while 92% has reached severe drought status. Houston is the largest city in Texas and is in a severe drought. Right now, we’re at least 7.46 inches below normal in terms of rainfall for the year.

The outlook for May calls for below normal precipitation amounts along the Gulf Coast, including Texas which is in a drought. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Here’s the latest outlook from ImpactWeather’s StormWatch Manager Fred Schmude:

“There are still indications the flow pattern will start to slow down during the last week
of April and early part of May resulting in a better chance of showers and thunderstorms to the greater Houston area. Right now it looks like our first opportunity for rain will occur during the early to middle part of next week associated with an upper level disturbance and cold front.

“Houston will probably be on the borderline with the heaviest rain falling just to the north and east of Harris County with much less south and west of the area. Note that only a slight change in the flow pattern could make the difference between no rain and widespread thunderstorms moving across the area in the form of a squall line.

“For now we will mention a 20 to 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms starting next Monday afternoon and continuing through Wednesday, with the best chance of rain occurring late Monday and again Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning.

“Most of the heavier rain will more than likely miss the area just to the north and east. This far out it looks like rainfall amounts will average less than 1/4 of an inch, but a few isolated areas may pick up 1 inch of rain, especially in those areas that see any thunderstorms.

“Even if this first opportunity for significant rainfall does not materialize during the early to middle part of next week, long range signals favor a better chance of showers and thunderstorms as we move though the first half of May.”

Texas isn’t the only state in a drought though; parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are as well. Image: U.S. Drought Monitor

Hopefully some relief is in sight because Texas farmers and cattle ranchers are facing the worst drought in 44 years. Texas is the biggest cattle producer in the nation, but the dry weather is forcing ranchers to bring in food for their cattle and that raises the overall cost. Therefore, you could end up paying more for beef.

Beef prices could increase as Texas drought continues. Photo:

 Wildfires continue to rage across parts of Texas and according to the Texas Forest Service, more than 6,061 fire and 1.8 acres have burned since the beginning of the year. But it’s not just parts of the U.S. that are suffering from extremely dry conditions but parts of Europe are, too.

Here’s the latest on Europe from Fred Schmude:

“The long range pattern is looking a little more favorable for Europe as the worldwide flow pattern goes through a significant change over the next week to 10 days.  The main reason why Europe has gone through the very dry weather pattern has to do with the state of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which is a worldwide weather cycle demonstrating alternating periods of higher or lower than normal pressure over the Atlantic Ocean and Europe.  When the NAO is in its positive phase, far northern Europe tends to see near or above normal precipitation while southern Europe will be drier as the storm track is forced northward.  During the negative phase of the NAO, far northern Europe will be drier than normal while central and southern Europe will trend significantly wetter as the storm track is forced southward.  

“Here is a map indicating the status of the NAO during the past 45 days, or since the 1st of March…other than the dip during the last week of May, the NAO has been almost continually positive.   

 Image: NOAA

“Now let’s take a look at current and past pressure anomalies from March 1st through April 18th and the associated jet stream position.   With the mean storm track that far to the north it’s no wonder why a large part of the continent has been so dry!  Again, the main reason has to do with the orientation of the NAO. 

 Image: NOAA

“The forecast over the next few weeks does indicate some significant changes as the NAO reverses from a positive to a negative state.  As a result, there’s strong correlation suggesting the main storm will start to dig southward during the last several days of April into May over central Europe bringing more rainfall from the UK and France eastward across Germany and Poland.  Even though this far out it’s difficult to tell how much rain may fall, at least long range signals are favoring a more favorable pattern for rainfall by month’s end.”

Well, it just goes to show you we’re not the only ones hoping for rain.

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