Texas Drought

texas drought map

Betsy Blaney is a reporter after my own heart. The theme is Texas drought. The story has numbers:

The first 11 months of 2006 rank as the 31st driest January-through-November stretch since 1895. Average rainfall for that period was 23 inches, down from the normal of 26.02 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Compounding the lack of rainfall is a statewide average temperature of 68.9 degrees, the second warmest January through November on record.

“You put those together and it’s not good,” National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said.

In contrast to drought stories I’ve complained about in the past, this one has data, and the data is consistent with actual drought, as opposed to farmers’ and ranchers’ perception of drought. But it’s also pretty clear that, in a warming world, if Texas farmers and ranchers can’t cope with what’s essentially a one-in-three dry year, there’s trouble ahead. That temperature trend isn’t going anywhere.


  1. Although the 1-in-3 seems to be a statewide figure. Presumably this is a much rarer event for the worst-affected area.

  2. Steve –

    The story clearly talks about a statewide event, and the ag loss numbers are statewide numbers, integrated across the entire state. Clearly, as the drought monitor shows, the impact in some areas is more severe. But, in fact, the area she visited for her color (Lubbock) is only experiencing modest drought by both Standardized Precipitation Index and Palmer measures. So I think my comment stands.

  3. I wasn’t trying to imply your comment was wrong, John. In any case I was curious about this and did a bit of noodling around the web, but discovered it’s not so easy to find that much on the human impacts of the drought. Possibly that’s because the small town newspapers tend not to be on the web, but also it would appear the big dailies aren’t doing much on it. I did find this report, which seemed like a pretty good (AFAICT) overview of the situation and includes a few interesting stats. My general impression from this and other stuff I saw is that it will take another half-year for things to reach a crisis stage in the worst-hit areas. Then of course the various government relief programs will kick in, and after that?

  4. Your articles on drought are very acknowledgeable, John. Your forthcoming book on drought will be much appreciated. You are certainly aware that the “driest fall of record” was in 1939 (TIME magazine, issue from the Dec. 25, 1939), and due to NYT (Jan. 7, 1940) the Weather Bureau noted that November 1939 was unusual because of its dry air.
    PS: Fall 1939 saw a strong El Niño.
    PSPS: Possible impact of El Niño and the wars in China and Europe is discussed by: http://www.seaclimate.com ; http://www.warchangesclimate.com
    All success and Happy New Year

  5. Mike –

    Thanks for the comment, but what you say about the fall of 1939 is simply not true. See Andreadis et al., Twentieth-Century Drought in the Conterminous United States, Journal of Hydrometeorology, December 2005. I highly commend the paper to those interested in understanding the spatial and temporal extent of drought across the United States during the 20th century.

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