Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 1:46 AM GMT on June 25, 2011
Crazy Hot in Texas, Drought Worsens in Region-UPDATE June 28
While media attention has been drawn to Minot, North Dakota's flood the unfolding drought in Texas is a far more significant story. This month has been one of intense heat and drought across the state of Texas and, for this portion of the world, the worst on record. Although temperatures cooled off June 21-22 the heat ramped up again June 23-26. On June 26th Amarillo recorded its highest temperature on record (since 1892) with 111°. Dodge City, Kansas tied its all-time record with 110° (last seen on June 29, 1998). Dodge City has temperature records back to 1874. Yes, I said 1874 by the Signal Service. So this is one of the oldest records to be broken or tied in United States history. Some beneficial rain has fallen in the eastern part of Texas, but a drought of epic proportions continues in most other parts of Texas (and the east portion as well where precipitation remains around 25-30% of normal YTD) and adjoining regions of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arizona and Mexico.
The Texas Heat is On
The highest temperature reported from Texas so far this month has been 117° at Childress (in the panhandle region on June 26th). When the final COOP reports come in it is possible that a new state high was broken somewhere in this area, although these temperatures are still a long way from the state record of 120° set at Monahas on June 28, 1994 and at Seymore on August 12, 1936. In Kansas the temperature reached 114° at Ashland (a COOP site) on June 26th breaking their all-time record of 112°. The POR at Ashland goes back to 1900, but the hottest spot of all in Kansas was Hugoton with a 115° reading just one degree short of the all-time Kansas state record for June of 116° at Clay Center in 1911.
The surface conditions map for the afternoon of June 17th shows almost the entire state of Texas experiencing 100°+ temperatures.
Amarillo (as of June 28)
So far this season only Amarillo and Dodge City, Kansas (among first-order stations) have tied or broken their all-time record high temperature with Amarillo's 111° on June 26th (surpassing its old record of 109° set last Friday and the previous record of 108° which was set on four different occasions in the past: on June 24, 27, and 28, 1998 and June 24, 1953) and Dodge City's 110°. Borger, Texas also broke its all-time record on June 26th with a reading of 113° as did Dalhart with a 110° temperature. Virtually every site in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma as well as southwestern Kansas have broken their all-time record maximum temperatures. Childress tied its all-time record with a 117° reading. Dodge City, Kansas actually touched 111° for one minute but this was short of the 3 consecutive minutes to meet ASOS official temperature requirements.
In Amarillo, as of June 28th twelve days of the month have reached or exceeded 100° (and another three such days in May including an all-time May record of 104° on May 29th). Eight days have set or tied record daily highs. The average high temp so far this month has been 98.0° compared to a normal average high for the period of 86.5°.
Lubbock (as of June 28)
In Lubbock 16 days of the month have so far reached 100° or higher peaking on and June 26th with a daily record of 112° (the first time the city has recorded 110° or higher since its all-time record was set at 114° on June 27, 1994). The average high so far has been 100.0° versus a normal such of 89.5°. This is the warmest June on record so far.
Midland (as of June 28)
In Midland 20 days of the month have so far reached 100° or higher peaking at 111° on June 25th (all-time record is 116° on June 27, 1994). An amazing 10 days have either tied or broken their daily record—with six consecutive days of such from June 14-19!. In May the all-time monthly record high was tied on May 27th with a 107° reading. The city has had 13 days of 105°+ temperatures already this season, just 1 day short of the most such for any entire year (14) set in 1994. The average high so far this June has been 103.0° versus a normal such of 92.5°.
San Angelo (as of June 28)
In San Angelo 24 days have been 100° or more this month with a maximum of 108° on the 17th and 18th. In May an all-time monthly record of 110° was recorded on May 28th, only 1° short of the all-time record for any month of 111° set on July 29th, 1960. So far this month the high temperature has averaged 103.0° versus a normal such of 89.8°.
Abilene (as of June 28)
In Abilene 17 days have been 100° or more so far this month with a maximum of 107° on three-consecutive days (all daily records) June 17-19. In May Abilene had an all-time monthly record high of 109° on May 28th (just 2° short of the all-time record for any month of 111° set on August 3, 1945). The average high so far this month has been 101.0° versus an average of 90.3°.
Wichita Falls (as of June 28)
In Wichita Falls 26 days have been above 100° with a maximum of 111° on June 17th and June 18th. Six daily record highs so far this month. Average high so far 101.0° versus normal of 91.0°.
Laredo (as of June 28)
Data for Laredo taken from its airport location is suspect. Local meteorologist and weather broadcaster Richard Berler has proven that the thermometer here runs 2-4°F above reality. See
In this article as reported in the local Laredo press.
in any case, just for the sake of my list here, this is what they have reported this month so far:
*Maximum so far has been 113° on June 17th
*May maximum of 112° on May 28th tied all-time monthly record. The all-time record for Laredo (for any month) is 115° on June 11, 1942
*Average high 106.0° versus normal of 100.0°
*Daily records set on 8 days so far this June
Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport (as of June 28)
The heat has been bad but not exceptional in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area so far this month. There have been 7 days of 100° or more with a maximum of 104° on June 18th. The average high has been 97.0° versus a normal of 90.2°.
San Antonio (as of June 28)
So far 7 days of 100° or more with a maximum of 104° on June 17th and June 18th. Four daily records so far. The average high has been 98.0° versus normal of 91.0°.
Even more remarkable than the heat has been the drought that has increased in intensity across the western half of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, the panhandle of Oklahoma and the portions of the Deep South.
The drought in Texas is now the worst on record in portions of the western part of the state. As blogger Sonja Harris recently wrote, “The oak trees are shedding their leaves for protection and the cedar trees are turning brown. There has been no display of wildflowers other than a sprinkle of yellow cactus blooms. We all miss the beauty of the wildflowers along the Texas highways which have been mostly absent this year. Even the cacti are dying. Huge trees are literally just falling over to their death. Ranchers are selling their livestock for lack of green pastures for the cattle to graze on.”
The Texas state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, issued this report on June 3rd and since then the situation has drastically worsened. It is probable that, at this point (June 24th), Texas is now enduring the worst drought in the state’s history, or at least for the western half of the state.
The latest drought monitor map shows the region of ‘exceptional drought’ has expanded in Oklahoma, Texas, and the Deep South especially into Florida’s panhandle, Georgia, and southern Alabama.
The map below is a close-up of current drought conditions in Texas:
The fires last April and May have subsided for the time being. Most of the fuel of long grass and shrub pines has burned off already. This was how the situation looked last April 27:
Map of the wild fires burning in Texas during the worst of the burning in late April. Graphic from wunderground.com
The dryness of the air during some recent days has been simply amazing. Note this hourly temperature roundup from the Midland NWS office showing a dew point of -1°F at Snyder while the air temp stood at 107°!
Lubbock, Texas has measured only 1.10” of precipitation since January 1st ,the driest reading ever measured at this time of the year (previous driest such period was 2.10” in 1945. Normal rainfall to date for the year should be 7.10”. El Paso has measured only .16” since January 1st (normal would be 2.42”) and no significant rain has fallen there since September 23, 2010 (when 1.09” fell). In the nine months since September 23 a total of only .51” has been measured in El Paso. The city experienced its longest dry spell on record of 119 consecutive days without measurable precipitation between Feb. 3-June 1. On June 2nd it rained .05" and there has been no additional rainfall since.
Other Texas locations have recorded the following total precipitation this year to date (versus normal through June 30-little rain is forecast until the end of the month for any of the locations I list below but, of course, that could change, in fact Amarillo picked up .49" during a thunderstorm just after midnight on June 28th effectively almost doubling their precipitation YTD):
Amarillo 1.17” (normal 9.42”)
Midland .16” (normal 5.60”)
Abilene 6.48” (normal 11.07”)
San Angelo 2.94” (normal 10.20”)
Odessa .10” (normal 5.62”)
Pecos .00” (normal 4.22”)
The last measurable precipitation at Pecos was on September 23, 2010. This is one of the longest rain-free periods in U.S. history for any first-order or COOP site outside of the desert regions of California and Arizona.
So far, this year has been the driest on record for New Mexico. Here are the year-to-date precipitation totals as of June 24th:
Albuquerque .19” (normal 3.06”)
Clayton 2.30” (normal 6.83”)
Silver City .11” (normal 4.79”)
Alamogordo .09” (normal 3.29”)
Roswell .10” (normal 4.57”)
Truth or Consequences .06” (normal 2.49”)
Deming .03” (normal 2.31”)
Ruidoso .11” (normal 7.05”)
Las Cruces .00” (normal 2.18”)
(Last measureable precipitation in Las Cruces was .05” on September 22, 2010, but data for October is mostly missing.)
Needless to say, Arizona has born the brunt of the worst this drought has so far provided with the largest wild fires in its history scorching some 700,000 acres so far this May and June. Below are the year-to-date precipitation totals as of June 23 versus what normal should be:
Phoenix 1.04” (normal 2.94”)
Tucson .83” (normal 3.22”)
Yuma .65” (normal 1.18”)
Safford .15” (normal 2.60”)
Douglas .06” (normal 2.73”)
Nogales .25” (normal 3.93”)
Tucson has now gone 78 days with no measurable precipitation, the 7th longest such period on record. No rain is forecast for at least the next week.
Table from the Tucson NWS site.
The summer monsoon season should begin this month and what happens over the next two weeks will be critical so far as how the drought progresses.
A report from The Latin American Herald Tribune states that 40% of the nation is experiencing its worst drought in 70 years. There are portions of the state of Coahulia where no rain has fallen since last September (just like Pecos in Texas). Wild fires have so far burned 500,000 acres in northern regions near the U.S. border.
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