Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Texas Gets a Glimpse of its Sizzling Future

It’s a blistering 110 degrees in Dallas today.

Ho hum…  That makes 34 days straight in DFW above 100.  The record heat wave and drought in Texas make for some curious news.  A reservoir in West Texas has turned blood-red, with dead fish floating in the last pools of steaming water.  “Exploding pavement” is cropping up everywhere, as extreme heat causes pavement to buckle and shatter.  And railroad rails are buckling in the heat, slowing train traffic by 20 miles per hour.

Blood-red reservoirs have attracted apocalyptic allusions
So, summer’s hot in Texas, you say.  Tell me something I don’t know.

Okay, how about this: Texas’ State Climatologist is warning that this is the beginning of the “new normal” for Texas, and that it’s going to get much worse.

Really, no kidding. Much worse.  Since 2000, John Nielsen-Gammon has been Professor of Meteorology at Texas A&M University and the Texas State Climatologist. Together with a large number of Texas climate scientists, he’s written a book called The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, and you can get it online (here).  Writing in 2008, he called 2000-2008 “the warmest period on record” for the state.  He is projecting a further 2-degree increase in Texas temperatures in 2020-2039, and close to a 4-degree increase in 2040-2059.

That would make today’s 110 degrees a pleasantly cool day, for whoever’s still living there.

Cow nosing for blade of grass in Manor, TX
But sadly, heat’s not all you get in Texas these days.  Texas is in the throes of a crippling drought.  The U.S. Drought Monitor calls Texas “disastrously hot,” exacerbating “exceptionally dry conditions.” Amarillo broke records for consecutive 100+ degree days two weeks back, and it’s not letting up.  Tyler is on course to double the previous triple-digit record of 20 straight days, which it also surpassed two weeks ago.

And the result?  The U.S. Drought Monitor tells us that 91% of Texas pastureland is now “poor to very poor.”  59% of Texas’ cotton crop is also “poor to very poor.”  Texas farmers are getting killed by this thing.
 

When it’s “abnormally dry” in Texas, the Drought Monitor tells us that soil moisture content is 20-31%.  Today, Texas soil has 0-2% moisture almost all over the state.  That's about like talcum powder.

Every week, the Drought Monitor maps the  U.S. with color-coded drought conditions:  from white (no drought), through progressively worse yellow, beige and tan, to red (severe drought) and finally dark brown (exceptional drought).  In recent months, Texas has been almost entirely dark brown.  Dark brown means:  “Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.”


The Brown State: Texas brown is "exceptional drought" w/ major crop losses
So Texas is blisteringly hot, and disastrously dry.  And the leading Texan climate scientists are warning that this is child’s play compared with what's to come in the new age of climate change.  You’d think that their politicians would be leading the charge to prevent this outcome, wouldn’t you?

Well, in fact, in April, Gov. Rick Perry did issue a proclamation calling on Texans to pray for rain.  But even devout Christian climate activists might consider this to be a suspect strategy for mitigating the effects of greenhouse gases.  And for good reason:  it hasn’t worked so far, as the drought has only strengthened its grip on the Lone Star state.


Total loss: Garfield, TX farm lost all its corn, milo & cotton
What’s more, in Congress, the Texas delegation consistently ranks among the most anti-climate-science group of legislators of any in the House.  For example, almost 75% of them voted to specifically prevent FEMA from planning with other agencies on how to respond to natural disasters caused by climate change.  And in the ongoing House debates over the EPA, a similar Texas majority supports amendment after amendment to strip the agency of powers to protect us from the effects of greenhouse gas concentrations, mercury pollution and other environmental threats.

So if you’re a person of faith in Texas today, pray (indeed!) for rain and relief.  But when you’re finished talking, listen carefully for the answer.  In my experience, God usually changes praying people to become His active instruments in the world.

It may be time in Texas to pray for our Father’s world  to be released from the grip of environmental torment.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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