Farm and Ranch
Too dry or too wet, soil moisture levels delay plantings
By Adam Russell, Texas A&M
Mar 13, 2019
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This National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service graphic shows parts of the state that have received above- and well below-average precipitation since late December.
College Station, Texas -- Despite soggy conditions delaying crop plantings in large swaths of the state, many areas are still contending with dry to drought conditions, according to the Texas state climatologist.

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon said a weak El Niño pattern, which typically brings rain to much of the Southern states, delivered above-normal amounts of rain to parts of the state while missing some areas altogether. 

Nielsen-Gammon said West Texas, the Panhandle and parts of South Texas did not receive typical fall and winter storms. Fall and winter are typically when soil moisture indexes recharge following hot, drier summer months.

California and the southeastern U.S. picked up more consistent rain than Texas from the El Niño weather pattern, he said.

“The rain events were more spotty than usual this fall and winter,” he said. “But the expectation is for a continued tendency toward wet weather through spring. Those areas could pick up some moisture over the next month, beginning this week.”

Producers in wet areas can only hope those storm fronts won’t deliver more rain, he said.

“There was a lot of rain in the fall, especially in East and Southeast Texas,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “It takes a long time for soils to dry during the cool season.”

Forecasting winter weather temperatures and moisture potential is typically accurate. But Nielsen-Gammon said it’s difficult to predict how summer weather will progress due to randomness of thunderstorms and tropical disturbances.

Much of the state also experienced below-normal temperatures, Nielsen-Gammon said.

A recent freeze event around the state may seem atypical because warm spells and good moisture promoted green growth and an early bloom in many parts of the state. But, he said, the last spring freeze in College Station is typically March 15.

“It’s not unusual to have cold weather at the beginning of March,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about extreme temperature variability, but there are no trends indicating that to me.”