New Texas report predicts extreme weather, drought conditions to worsen

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new study released Monday by the Office of the Texas State Climatologist and public policy think tank Texas 2036 pointed to an anticipated bump in 100-degree days in Texas and worsening drought conditions in the future.

The study marked the latest edition of “Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas,” an ongoing analysis of the changing environmental landscape in the Lone Star State. The newest findings also follow a record-breaking volume of wildfires statewide last year and the Smokehouse Creek Fire in late February, the largest wildfire in Texas history.

Some of the significant takeaways of the report’s update centered around the rise in extreme heat patterns and strains those present for the state’s electricity supply, as well as the possibility of more urban flooding.

  1. The report anticipates 100-degree days will be four times as common in 2036 compared to the 1970s and 1980s; an increase in extreme temperatures will lead to further dependency on lower thermostat temperatures, increasing electricity demand

  2. Parts of Texas, particularly the western and southern portions of the state, will likely see heightened wildfire risks and changes to property insurance rates

  3. Anticipated 7% increase in “summertime evaporative losses” by 2036 will result in worsening drought conditions and accelerated drying up of existing surface water

  4. Projected 15% increase in “extreme one-day precipitation events” since the late 1900s could contribute to a more pronounced rainfall pattern that leads to more urban flooding by 2036

  5. Texas’ agricultural growing season has lengthened over past 50 years, starting approximately a half-month earlier and wrapping a half-month later

“Our summers have been growing significantly hotter and rainfall has become more sporadic, reshaping Texas’ weather patterns,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon — the Texas State climatologist at Texas A&M University — in the release. “If current trends continue, Texans will face more intense and frequent heat waves, more erratic rainfall and an increasing fire risk in certain areas of the state.”

From a regional standpoint, the report found West Texas has seen a surge in the number of high-risk days for wildfires breaking out. Over in East Texas, it’s projected that rainfall intensity will jump roughly 10% compared to the 2001-2020 timeframe, and 20% higher than the 1950-1999 time period.

Infrastructure improvements in urban areas are recommended due to projected heightened flood risks and the possibility of extreme rainfall events growing. Relative sea level rises in the coastal bend portion of Texas could also yield heightened storm risks down the road.

Statewide, the report anticipates increased temperatures paired with more varied rainfall could elevate future severe drought risks, in turn presenting further strain on Texas rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

A closer look at the report is available online.

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