“Much of Texas is bone dry, with scarcely any moisture to be found in the top layers of soil. Grass is so dry it crunches underfoot in many places. The nation’s leading cattle-producing state just endured its driest seven-month span on record, and some ranchers are culling their herds to avoid paying supplemental feed costs.
May is typically the wettest month in Texas, and farmers planting on non-irrigated acres are clinging to hope that relief arrives in the next few weeks.
“It doesn’t look bright right at the moment, but I haven’t given up yet,” said cotton producer Rickey Bearden, who grows about two-thirds of his 9,000 acres without irrigation in West Texas. “We’ll have to have some help from Mother’s Nature.”
That the drought is looming over the Southwest while floodwaters rise in the Midwest and South reflects a classic signature of the La Nina weather oscillation, a cooling of the central Pacific Ocean.
This year’s La Nina is the sixth-strongest in records dating back to 1949.
“It’s a shift of the jet stream, providing all that moisture and shifting it away from the south, so you’ve seen a lot of drought in Texas,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center in Silver Spring, Md.”
Read more: Associated Press