Texas is dry and hot. Global warming?

Print Friendly
Maybe, but we can’t be sure
Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor of political science; director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University

“We can’t attribute any event, season or year to human induced climate change,” says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist who directs the Climate Science Center Texas Tech University. “We could only do that if we could say with zero doubt that it would have never happened otherwise. But climate change has already altered the background conditions of our atmosphere, and in that sense, every event — drought, heat, storm — contains climate change.”

So if we ask whether the situation in Texas reflects climate change or natural variability, “Your answers are Yes, and Yes,” Hayhoe says. “This is part of both climate change and natural variability, but we don’t know the proportions.”

Although Hayhoe says we don’t even know whether global warming is making rain more or less likely in Texas, her “educated guess” is that it will increase the odds of drought. “We know that in the future it will be hotter, with more extreme heat, so more water will evaporate, less water will be in the soil, and therefore we are more likely to have drought.”

1st image: NOAA. 2nd (rollover) image: NOAA
This year’s dry spell was Texas’s worst since 1900, according to the Palmer hydrologic drought index. The index measures wet and dry conditions over the long term, giving a better gauge of groundwater and reservoir levels.
(Roll over) The slight decline in average summer temperatures may reflect conditions in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But how long until Texas catches up with global warming that has become so dominant across the globe?