Drought Relief…Just A Drizzle.

DALLAS — Recent storms in Texas brought some long-awaited relief to the nation’s most drought-stricken state, but the brutal dry spell is far from over as it drags into its third year.

About 16 percent of the state — all in the southern and central parts of Texas — is classified under the most extreme two categories of drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest drought monitor map released on Thursday. That’s down from last week’s 25 percent, but still well above 2.4 percent from a year ago. A small section of Hawaii is the only other U.S. area classified as under severe drought. [1]

Reading this in the paper yesterday I had to laugh…and cry. All summer long, whenever a thunderstorm would cross the area I would watch the radar and see it split just as it reached our place.

Storms dumped more than a foot of rain in some of the hardest-hit Texas drought areas over the past week or so, but the land is so dry that the water was mostly just sucked up instead of making its way into lakes, rivers and creeks.

“In the core of the drought area they’ve gotten only about half the normal rainfall the entire year for two years,” said Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. “They’ve effectively missed an entire year’s worth of rainfall.” [1]

Our home is located on the eastern edge of that core drought area. The local climate seems to have developed a dry spot right along the coast  south of the Houston Metro area. Rains that move through the area seem to stay to the north of I-10. It is as if all of the moisture off of the Gulf is jumping the first 50 miles and dropping down from there north.

The drought that began in September 2007 has cost an estimated $3.6 billion in crop and livestock losses in the nation’s No. 2 agriculture state. It has dried up waterways, forced more than 340 public water systems to restrict water use and killed hundreds of thousands of trees. It’s been declared the driest 24-month period in recorded history in parts of the state and the worst drought in history in a handful of counties. [1]

Driving around our area this summer has been a study in browns. The number of trees that were damaged by Hurricane Ike last year and have now been pushed over the edge by the drought is amazing. Brown colored pines and oaks pepper many of the wooded areas up and down the county.

An unusually hot summer compounded the problems. San Antonio had 59 days over 100 degrees, shattering the record of 36. Austin had 68 days over 100, one shy of the record set in 1925.

The recent storms helped — with parts of San Antonio getting 8 inches of rain, Austin getting 6 inches and the nearby Texas Hill Country about 15 inches — but Pat McDonald of the National Weather Service said that still leaves the area at 15-25 inches below normal for the year. [1]

When you add this report to the mix you began to see a much bigger problem.

Surface temperatures of the world’s oceans were warmer this summer than for any Northern Hemisphere summer since records were first kept in 1880, according to data released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. From June to August, ocean temperatures reached an average of 62.5° F worldwide, about 1.04° warmer than the 20th century average of 61.5°. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center also reported that the average global land and ocean temperature for August was the second-warmest on record, behind only 1998. In August, the average global land surface temperature of 58.2° F was 1.33° above the 20th century average of 56.9°. While some areas, including the central United States, had cooler temperatures than average, large portions of the world’s land mass had warmer temperatures than average, including both Australia and New Zealand, which had their warmest Augusts ever.[2]

The only thing keeping my area from experiencing another batch of tropical storms is the weather pattern in the Pacific. The water temperaturs in the Gulf and the Atlantic are up and would normally be pumping out storm systems. Which just highlights the complexities of climate change and local climate variations…

[1] Storms bring just a little relief to Texas’ 2-year drought | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.

[2] Yale Environment 360: NOAA Reports World’s Oceans Had Warmest Summer Temeratures on Record.

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