June 10, 2024 - Central Texas Emerges from Drought


June 6, 2024 October 18, 2023

A very rainy spring has tipped the scales in Central Texas, bringing the region out of drought status for the first time in two years. According to local media reports, Austin, the state capital located in Travis County, received 6.2 inches (15.7 cm) of rain during the month of May 2024. The springtime storms also helped fill Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan, increasing water levels by 14 percent.

On June 4, the U.S. Drought Monitor recorded drought-free conditions in several Central Texas counties, including Travis, Bastrop and Williamson counties. The report showed that on October 18, 2023, 95.7 percent of Travis County was in the D4 category, which is the highest range reported and is classified as “exceptional drought”. On June 4, however, the Drought Monitor reported that only 13.89 percent of Travis County was in the D0 range, which is “abnormally dry” but not drought. The rest of the county showed no unusually dry conditions.

While Central Texas’ emergence from drought is notable news, much of Southwestern Texas remains in D3 (extreme drought) and D2 (severe drought) conditions. The Panhandle is also still D0 (abnormally dry) or D1 (moderate drought). And in Central Texas, most lake levels have improved but are still less than three-quarters full. As weather heats up and rainfall slows heading into summer, it’s quite possible that Central Texas can rapidly slip back into drought.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired two false-color images of Central Texas, one on June 6, 2024, and the other on October 18, 2023. The images are centered near the city of Austin, just east of the snake-like twists of Lake Travis above the dam on the Colorado River.

This type of false-color image highlights vegetation (bright green) and water, which looks blue. In addition, clouds appear white and open land is colored in tan. The top image (June 6, 2024) is nearly completely covered in vegetation, indicative of good spring growth spurred by adequate rainfall. The reservoirs and rivers are large and easily visible throughout the landscape. Clicking on the October 18, 2023, image shows a very different scene and is clearly of a parched landscape. The rivers and lakes are noticeably smaller than in 2024 and only patches of green show against an otherwise tan background.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 6/6/2024
Resolutions: 1km (42.9 KB), 500m (111.5 KB), 250m (242.2 KB)
Bands Used: 7,2,1
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC