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Changing Weather Patterns Likely to Keep Texas Drought in Check


An offshoot of the changing weather system that produced severe and unprecedented flooding in Louisiana should persist throughout most of Texas, helping to check or even eliminate drought conditions that had been developing this summer, according to a weather expert.

While the system shouldn’t impede the summer harvest of cotton and grain statewide, it likely won’t provide much drought relief to South Texas, said Barry Goldsmith, the warning coordinator meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Brownsville.

“The weather pattern that featured a persistent ‘heat dome’ of atmospheric high pressure over Texas through much of July and the first week of August appears to be changing for the remainder of the month,” Goldsmith said.

The change brought heat relief and substantial rainfall to regions of Texas including the east, southeast, central and southern parts of the state, he said.

“The forecast pattern for Texas to close August will be transitioning to one that is more late spring-like rather than late summer-like, with a few twists,” Goldsmith said.

Those twists include atmospheric conditions that will likely lift tropical moisture northward, producing clusters of showers and thundershowers which “should help keep the drought in check across central and north Texas, if not eliminate such conditions in several areas,” he said.

“The axis of heavier rain and potential flooding is likely to extend from the Big Bend region northeast to the Dallas metroplex and east to include much of east and southeast Texas,” Goldsmith said.

The rain events and cloudiness will help put a cap on temperatures.

“We’ll probably see below to much-below average temperatures for late August in those areas where the most rain is likely to fall,” Goldsmith said.

Brad Cowan, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent in Hidalgo County, said summer harvesting of grain sorghum and cotton appeared to be going smoothly statewide, including in South Texas, where grain sorghum is all but harvested, but cotton growers could use another few days of dry weather to finish their 2016 crop.

“We got some isolated heavy showers this week that may have slowed or delayed some pockets of cotton harvesting in extreme South Texas, but overall our harvest is going well and could be done soon, given another 10 rain-free days,” he said.

Goldsmith said South Texas will likely get the hot, dry weather Rio Grande Valley cotton farmers need.

“The Valley will likely continue to sit under the remnant core of the ‘heat dome,’ perhaps through month’s end,” he said. “That will keep temperatures slightly above the already hot average and limit precipitation during a time when daily average rainfall begins to rise steadily.”

That means another streak of 100-plus degree days from Laredo to McAllen beginning late this week and possibly continuing through August, Goldsmith said, with rainfall amounts depending on enough atmospheric moisture available to be triggered by afternoon sea breezes.

“The trend is leaning drier than wetter in this case,” he concluded.

Cowan said the weather notwithstanding, finances are weighing heavily on the state’s cotton and grain producers.

“What we could really use are higher market prices for grain sorghum and cotton,” he said.

Grain sorghum prices continue to be weak, and after gaining some momentum recently, cotton prices have also weakened, according to Dr. John Robinson, an AgriLife Extension agriculture economist in College Station.

“After trending for almost two years in the range of 60 cents per pound of lint, New York cotton futures prices recently rose over 10 cents per pound starting in mid-July, before retreating about 9 cents in mid-August,” he said.

Robinson attributes that initial price rise to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “more bullish forecast of world demand in the July supply/demand report,” he said. “This was followed by considerable speculative buying with the apparent view of a weather market. Prices will continue to be influenced by expectations about the effect of recent rain events in West Texas.

A weather market is a typical summer phenomena whereby expectations of changing weather conditions and supply are uncertain, resulting in unpredictable and volatile prices, Robinson said.

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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