A dry winter that’s on track to making the record books has sent portions of Texas, including Houston and Fort Worth, back into severe drought, raising concerns about wildfires and the health of wheat crops and tree farms.
September and November could be the driest of those months since 1950 and among the top five driest on record, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said. And not much more rain is expected this winter or spring since the El Niño pattern meteorologists had counted on for some moisture fizzled out.
“Normally … the ground is taking up a lot of moisture and the temperatures are cool enough for the ground to stay moist for most of the winter,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “But … it simply hasn’t rained much in the past couple of months, so things are as dry.”
As a result, reservoirs are not refilling, and some are dropping, which is unusual for winter in Texas, Nielsen-Gammon added.
How dry was November? This dry.
In the year of Austin’s last rain-less November — 1897 —the Civil War was a recent enough memory that the University of Texas was forced to defend itself over claims that “northern professors” were “teaching heresies.”
Following an investigation, the regents announced “there has not been taught in the University anything objectionable to southern people” and, other things being equal, they confirmed that they opted for teachers who were “Texas men first and southern men next.”
One hundred and fifteen years later, in the latest sign of a seemingly unshakable drought, not one drop of rain was recorded at Camp Mabry during the November just ended.
Only three times — in 1871, 1894, and 1897 — has zero rain been recorded during November at the Austin site since record-keeping began in 1856.
Nearly three inches fall in a typical November; this year, nothing. But thanks to storms the first half of the year, 2012’s precipitation is still outpacing the average rainfall.
The drought, which just months ago was seemingly broken by all those rains, is slowly reasserting itself in Central Texas.
The good news is that Central Texas, at least, is still a lot better off than it was two years ago. The bad news is that the next three months are forecast to have below average rainfall. One wonders if a second session with drought stories abounding will be sufficient to spur the Legislature into action. I’m not holding my breath. SciGuy has more.