Half of Texas suffering an “exceptional drought”

Less than halfway through 2011, this country has already seen three “exceptional” meteorological events just in the past few weeks. These events that pushed the record books to the limit include:

  • A deadly swarm of 244 confirmed tornadoes from April 25-28, (with 112 reports of tornadoes yet to be confirmed) that raked the South and Southeast, with some tornadoes up to a mile wide that remained on the ground for over 100 miles.
  • a slow-moving flood disaster with record flooding or lake levels recorded in 25 locations in 10 states, topping the Great Flood of 1927, and
  • the Southern drought that is creeping toward a new record Just under 6% of the continental US is currently suffering an “exceptional drought”. That’s 185,321 square miles (an area larger than the state of California – 163,695 sq. mi.)

This exceptional drought event has not yet broken the record drought coverage set back on Aug. 20, 2002, but it is getting close.

And while this is not yet the worst drought on record, of note is the fact that just under half (47.5%) of the state of Texas is in this “exceptional” category!  The previous maximum coverage of exceptional drought in Texas was a mere 18.8% on Aug. 25, 2009 (this since aerial coverage of records have been kept starting in January 2000).

Texas has gone from being at least 82% in drought to less than 12% in drought 14 times over the last 11 years! This probably makes Texas one of the most “feast or famine” precipitation states in the nation and we are certainly in a famine phase right now.

Right now there is little expectation that we can expect relief from this current drought in the near future, and that relief may come too late for some. If the past decade is any indication, it also means relief may come in the form of too much, and parts of the state can expect exceptional flooding. Some meteorologists think this may be evidence of the amplification of the water cycle as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), relating to greater evaporation over land and water.

As Texas rides these roller coaster weather shifts, it is clear that the state needs to carefully assess its water resources and that means looking at water usage by conventional power generators (coal and nuclear).