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Water + Weather 2023: Year in Review Posted on January 11, 2024


Transcript

Dr. Mark Wentzel - Hydrologist, Texas Water Development Board

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Texas Water Development Board's latest Water and Weather report. I'm Dr. Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist in the Surface Water Division here at the agency. And today, we'll be taking a look at conditions for our state over the last year. Let's take a look at some of the big water and weather headlines in 2023.

2023 was the hottest and 33rd driest year for Texas since 1895. We began 2023 with half the area of the state impacted by drought, the result of a statewide drought that had been ongoing for more than a year. Drought conditions improved early in the year, reaching a low of 23 percent of the state in mid-June. But conditions worsened over the summer and reached a high of 86 percent in mid-September. Conditions improved in the last quarter, and we finished the year with 39 percent of the state in drought. Impacts due to drought have varied across the state. The most impacted surface water supplies have been in Central and South Texas. We did end 2023 with reason for optimism. El Niño conditions, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Equatorial Pacific, are in place and, as a result, continued drought improvements are expected in early 2024.

Let's take a closer look at temperature and precipitation. On these maps, we're looking at both parameters relative to what is considered normal for a year. From a water supply perspective, reds, oranges, and yellows mean trouble on both maps. They show areas with above-average temperature on the left and below-average precipitation on the right. As shown on the left, 2023 was warmer than normal everywhere in the state. In fact, it was the hottest year for Texas since at least 1895. As shown on the right, precipitation was also below normal for most of the state. 2023 wound up being the 33rd driest year since 1895. Still, it was an improvement from 2022, which was the 13th driest year during that time period.

Let's take a closer look at drought conditions on the landscape in 2023. This chart shows how the area of the state impacted by drought varied throughout the year. At the start of 2023, 50 percent of the state was in drought. That receded to 23 percent by mid-June but expanded again to reach 86 percent by mid-September. Since mid-September, drought has been receding, falling to 39 percent by the end of 2023. As we end the year, the drought monitor map for conditions as of December 26 shows 39 percent of the state in drought, primarily in large areas of West, Central, and East Texas.

Let's take a closer look at how surface water supply systems across the state were impacted by the end of 2023. On this map, the number near each city is the difference between surface water supply storage on December 31 and what is considered normal for this time of year based on the last 30 years of data. The units are percentage points of total system capacity. The red negative numbers show systems that are below normal. Black positive numbers show systems that are near or above normal. Throughout 2023, the most drought-impacted water supplies were in Central and South Texas. Water supplies for Brownsville, Laredo, Temple, Killeen, and Waco reached their lowest values in 30 years during 2023. Conditions in Waco returned to normal in late October/early November, thanks to beneficial rains. But 11 of these 20 systems ended the year at least 10 percentage points lower than normal.

What might the future hold in 2024? There is reason for optimism. El Niño conditions, warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Equatorial Pacific, are in place. And as a result, Winter 2024 is expected to be wetter than average. If we can maintain average precipitation through May, typically the wettest month of the year for Texas, we should see significant improvements before summer 2024. That concludes our report. Until next time, I hope you all stay healthy and safe and have a great new year.



This article is posted in Weather / Drought / Water Supply .