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Water + Weather for February 2021 Posted on March 09, 2021



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 here at the agency. And today, we'll be taking a look at conditions for our state at the end of February 2021.

Let's take a look at some of the big water and weather headlines. Most noteworthy, February brought unusual amounts of snow and cold to Texas. Despite the snow and cold, drought conditions expanded and now cover 51 percent of the state. Statewide storage in our water supply reservoirs is at 82 percent of capacity, about three and a half percentage points less than normal for this time of year. And La Niña conditions, which are at least partially responsible for drought in Texas, are expected to continue through April but dissipate later in the year.

Let’s take a closer look at the snow and cold Texas experienced in mid-February. At that time, a polar vortex, a large mass of cold air from the Arctic, traveled south across Canada and the Central U.S. When that cold air made its way to Texas, it brought record low temperatures and snowfall. In degrees Fahrenheit, record daily lows ranged from 22 degrees in Brownsville to the minus teens in the Panhandle. The low temperatures also triggered snowfall across the state. Many locations, including Abilene with 14.8 inches and Del Rio with 11.2, set records for snowfall on a single day. Though it didn't linger on the ground, snow fell in Brownsville for only the second time since 1898. At its peak coverage on February 16th, more than 80 percent of the state had snow on the ground.

Unfortunately, all that snow didn't translate to drought relief. Why? Because it's mostly air. It takes 10 to 12 or more inches of fresh snow to produce one inch of moisture. In the end, despite the snow, most of the state, the areas in orange and red on this map, received less than half of average precipitation for February. Only a few scattered areas shown in green and blue received average or better precipitation.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map for conditions as of February 23 shows that drought is expanding. January brought a 37 percentage point decrease in the area of the state impacted by drought. February brought a nearly seven percentage point increase. Only relatively cool temperatures kept drought from expanding even more. At the end of February, drought covers just over half the state.

What are the chances for improved precipitation for Texas in the next few months? Not very good. And despite the cold weather in February, temperatures are expected to bounce back above seasonal averages as well. As a result, the latest seasonal outlook from the National Weather Service anticipates drought expansion across all but the eastern edge of the state by the end of May. Looking a little farther out there is some good news. La Niña conditions, that are at least partially responsible for drought in Texas, are expected to dissipate after April. That concludes our report. Until next time, I hope you all stay healthy and safe.

This article is posted in Drought / Water Data .