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A Decade-Long Drought? Yeah, Maybe So, State Climatologist Says.

A Decade-Long Drought? Yeah, Maybe So, State Climatologist Says.
Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux

It's all but official now. We've strung together the 12 driest months in Texas history. State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon estimates we got 13.69 inches for the year. The average is 27.

It's been hell on ranchers, as we reported in this week's cover story. And it may get worse. Texas A&M put out this release last week, citing Nielsen-Gammon's hypothesis that this could be a decade-long drought event. We caught up with him today, before he was scheduled to discuss the Texas drought with climate scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Fort Worth.

So, why a decade?

Apparently, a cooling pattern in the Pacific and a warming trend in the Atlantic are synced up. "The Atlantic is unusually warm, and that combination leads to dry conditions across the central U.S.," Nielsen-Gammon tells Unfair Park. "We are at risk at this point and will be until things change, which isn't very predictable but probably won't be for another decade."

In the last 110 years, the weather patterns have lined up twice. The first time was during the drought of record in the 50s and early 60s. They lined up again around 2000. We've had drought in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009, though none as deep and widespread as this year's.

Translated: Don't count on significant rain anytime soon. Hurricane season is just about over. A tropical storm could meander in during October, but that's almost impossible to predict with any certainty. Otherwise, La Niña has reemerged, portending another dry fall and spring.

And a silver lining? Statistically, a record-smashing sequel to this year is pretty unlikely. Hey, we take what we can get.


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