Fading La Nina may be too late for southern U.S. drought

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Winter precipitation has eased the drought over much of the Great Plains, with Texas and Oklahoma experiencing significant improvements. But the great drought persists, and meteorologists see more of the same in the upcoming months.

The La Nina weather phenomenon that weather experts say contributed significantly to the drought in America’s southwest is winding down. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says La Nina is expected to fade between March and May. Unfortunately, the effects of La Nina may still leave large swaths of the southern U.S. under drought conditions this summer.

According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), La Nina will be over by summer, but CPC deputy director Mike Halpert says that’s too late for much of the southern U.S. because the rainy season will be over.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly update that computer models favor "a return to neutral conditions during the Northern Hemisphere spring, which are likely to continue into the summer."

However, optimism has grown in much of Texas this winter because the December through January period was the eleventh wettest on record. That included back-to-back months of above-average precipitation for the first time in two years. Rains in Texas over the past week brought 30-day totals to over 5 inches in some east-central and southeastern areas, but 6-month totals remained more than 8 inches below normal across many areas.

Meteorologists also believe that this winter’s La Nina is contributing to worsening drought conditions in Florida. Over the past month the percentage of the state classified as in a drought has climbed to 90.  In Texas, however, the percentage of the state under exceptional drought has declined from 81 percent in August of last year to 23 percent in early February.

View the National Drought Monitor here.

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