The drought in Texas that has fueled wildfires, devastated agriculture and caused water shortages, actually worsened in the past week according to the US Drought monitor’s weekly report.
Much of Texas would need 9 to 23 inches of rain over the next month to emerge from drought and that is unlikely to happen. The forecast for three months out indicates that we will stay in this pattern for a while. Texas was told to expect abnormally warm and dry conditions from October to December thanks to another La Nina weather cycle.
La Nina conditions in the U.S. tend to mean warmer, drier weather in the south and the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that over the next three months above normal temperatures are expected in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — as well as parts of areas along the western Great Lakes.
While some rain fell Thursday morning in parts of hard-hit north Texas, nearly 88 percent of the state is in what is classified as exceptional drought — up from 81 percent the week before.
Nearly 97 percent of Texas is in either exceptional or extreme drought.
From June through August, Texas suffered the hottest three months ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. And the 12 months ending on Aug. 31 were the driest 12 months in Texas history, with most of the state receiving just 21 percent of its annual average rainfall.
In Texas alone, agricultural losses have topped $5 billion.
Over the next few days, some 1-2 inches of rain is forecast in some of the drought areas. But Texas will miss most of that, so no relief in sight. At least the temperatures have dipped below 100, so while the Austin City Limits festival will probably seem unbearably hot for those coming into Central Texas from out of state, for us Texans 95 degrees will seem balmy.
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The worst Texas drought since the 1950s has a handful of cities facing a prospect they’ve never encountered before: running out of water.
Many lakes and reservoirs across the state are badly depleted after more than a month of 100-degree temperatures and less than 1 inch of rain. The worst-off communities are already trying to run pipes to distant water, drilling emergency wells bringing on systems that turn waste water into tap water and banning water use for virtually anything beyond drinking, bathing and keeping businesses working.
Worst-case scenarios have a few towns running out of water in a matter of months. Although Texas cities have gone bone-dry before —Throckmorton in 2000 — the nearly 500 water systems statewide now under some mandatory restrictions appear unprecedented.
Prayer gatherings for rain have been held across the state, the most notable being called by Governor Rick Perry in July. So far, these measures have not brought even the promise of rain for most of us.
In the town of Llano, near Austin, which went to Stage 5 water restrictions back around the 4th of July weekend, officials have made a contingency plan to roll trucks of bottled water into town if rain doesn’t start to replenish the water supply, and workers are drilling test wells into parched, rock-like soil. Water restrictions are in effect in unprecedented in places like Midland, where barely a half-inch of rain has fallen since October of 2010.
If La Nina conditions return this fall, which the Climate Prediction Center says is likely, Texas is unlikely to see any significant relief from this drought well into next year.
As I sit at my desk with the sun pouring through the window heating everything around me, knowing that just outside the front door it is still a soil scorching 103 degrees F, I think that it may be time to raise the specter of (duhn-duhn-duhhhhhhn) CLIMATE CHANGE. Even if Governor Perry is traveling around the country telling everyone that scientists have cooked up the data on global warming for the cash, the numbers here in Texas seem to be refuting his claim and you can expect to see us blogging about it soon.
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The Climate Prediction Center says there is now a 50/50 chance of a return to La Nina conditions this fall.
La Nina is an expansive area of cooler-than-normal water in the Pacific Ocean. This cooling alters weather patterns across the U.S., and almost always results in drier than normal conditions for Texas and most of the South. And, when we’re drier than normal, we tend to be hotter than normal.
This is very bad news for Texas, as the 2010-11 La Nina is the reason for our existing drought and heat wave. Think the drought and summer heat is bad now (the Mid-West and East had a heat wave, what we are having is a heat tsunami), if we have a 2011-12 La Nina, this drought could reach epic proportions by next summer.
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