AUSTIN – Concerns about Texas wildfires are increasing due to a flash drought exacerbating drought conditions in the Lone Star State.
Nearly 70% of Texas is currently experiencing a drought, which is up about 20% over the last two months. According to the FOX Forecast Center, this rapid increase is partially due to a severe drought that has increased 15% over the past week alone.
Such a rapid increase in drought conditions is known as a flash drought. As its name implies, a flash drought is the quick onset or intensification of drought. According to NOAA, it comes after a period of abnormally low rainfall, high temperatures, high winds and high solar radiation.
These conditions could be found throughout Texas this summer. Much of the state has been baking in a heat wave off-and-on for months, with temperatures in most areas reaching the triple digits. For example, San Antonio broke 21 of its high-temperature records so far this year.
Additionally, wind speeds of 10–15 mph this month elevated fire weather conditions, as wind can have huge impacts on fire spread and fire growth, the Texas A&M Forest Service said.
Heat, wind and drought conditions this summer have left grasses, shrubs and trees parched, turning the vegetation into fuel for wildfires.
As of Tuesday, an estimated 69 fires have been counted this season, which have burned through 24,000 acres. According to the FOX Forecast Center, about 8,000 of those burned just since August 1.
The largest active wildfire is the Campbell Fire in Archer County in north-central Texas. The fire has been burning for two weeks, scorching about 8,000 acres.
The drought conditions will continue to worsen in the near future, as little to no rain is in the forecast for Texas for the next 10 days, the FOX Forecast Center said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a wildfire disaster declaration for over half the state to fight ongoing fires. About 181 counties, or approximately 71% of all Texas counties, are currently under a burn ban.
Additionally, because of drought conditions, the City of Austin elevated their water restrictions to Stage 2 on Tuesday. Officials said this is due to water levels in the reservoirs of Lakes Travis and Buchanan being projected to drop even further these next few days.