Recent dry conditions in East New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle have “Flash Drought” to thank.
Hydrologists describe flash drought like flash flooding – it happens really quick, and then it’s over.
So what’s the difference between flash drought and normal drought?
The main difference is temperature. Flash droughts occur when it heats up quickly. East New Mexico and a few locations in the Texas panhandle saw abnormally warm temperatures in March while waiting for rain. National Weather Service Hydrologist Royce Fontenot describes it like this: “someone’s turned up the heat, turned off the water” and that’s how you get flash drought.
Normal drought lasts for long periods of time, sometimes months and years. Flash drought only lasts days and maybe up to weeks.
For normal drought, scientists look at soil depth down to a few feet, but flash drought only really impacts the top layer of the soil.
Meteorologists we spoke to today said they hadn’t heard of flash drought, and it seems to be a relatively new phenomenon. Scientific papers and journals discussing flash drought only go back 5-10 years.
What’s the solution? Just like normal drought, you need rain to end a flash drought. But a flash drought can also end by cooling those temperatures.