Publication Date August 9, 2019

A Flash Drought is Now Developing in Parts of Texas and Oklahoma After One of the Wettest Springs on Record

United States
Drought monitor analyses showing the expansion of drought, highlighted by the white arrows, over parts of Texas and Oklahoma from July 23 to August 6, 2019. Image: USDA, NDMC, NOAA
  • Parts of Oklahoma and Texas are now in drought.
  • This drought has developed rapidly enough to be considered a flash drought.
  • Some locations had one of their driest Julys on record, sending topsoil moisture plummeting.
  • An ongoing heat wave, and typical August heat, may worsen the drought.
  • This follows one of the wettest springs on record.

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You may think of droughts as slowly-evolving weather phenomena.

But some droughts, known as flash droughts, can develop much faster, on the order of weeks to a few months rather than years, leaving less time to prepare for impacts such as crop losses, reductions in water supply and increased wildfire risk.

Jason Otkin, a drought researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he uses at least a two-category worsening in the Drought Monitor over a four-week period or a three-category intensification over an eight-week period, as criteria for a flash drought.

"This region is very susceptible to flash droughts given its location on the east-west transition zone between more arid conditions to the west and the more moist climate to the east," Otkin said.