Texas drought update…

Like most Americans, I watched news of Hurricane Irene’s soiree along the East Coast. While I am sure there was damage done with her passing, I need not look further than out my front door to watch a much more devastating but less newsworthy catastrophe unfold. The drought I refer to is not as spectacular as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and the like, but I assure you, it has proved a more lethal, silent, and effective killer than any of the above this year.

As I type, an accurate thermometer registers 111 degrees from the shade of my front porch. We have suffered days, weeks, even months in sweltering heat with no rain. The ground is parched and cracked, the grass dead; desert termites encase the last of grass carcasses with mud tubes, adding insult to injury to those that might have saved a pasture for grazing.

While someone from Phoenix or Death Valley California may say this is an every-year occurrence, they do not live near large concentrations of beef and poultry farms like those near my home in South Central Texas. We raise more cattle than anywhere in these United States. Or we once did, anyway…

As I speak, broilers are dying by the droves while farm managers and workers watch helplessly. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs hide in what little shade they can find, panting. Some will die. Whole herds of cattle appear at overstrained livestock auctions around the state. Most ranchers have no hay to feed their animals; some no longer can provide water for them to drink.

Wildlife also suffers; who knows how many thousands will succumb and die today.

Trees are dying. It may be a while before you notice, but notice you will.

There was a catastrophe today, but it had nothing to do with Hurricane Irene.

Texas is burning.

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  • standing sweltering against a dramatic shriveled-up background … it’s all about the dramatic images and sound bytes that can be marketed

  • Although I agree that not enough attention is paid to the horrible drought you are experiencing and that the threat of Irene was overhyped you must realize that something that will directly effect 50 million people is bound to attract more attention in media that are time sensitive. Your plight requires attention that is more timeless. Your writings have a chance. There is no reason for jealousy – it doesn’t become you.

  • A friend in Big Spring TX tells me all outside watering and car washing has been completely banned and that a nearby town will be evacuated if they can’t pipe in water from elsewhere.

    1/10 inch of rain in a year.

  • reading your words and feeling really bad for you. It hit 112 today at my house. But I am “urban” and as such don’t have much exposure to what is “really” happening. At least I have a few chickens, and although I have not lost any, I watch them pant their way through the day. I did lose 2 out of my 4 beehives… nothing for the bees to eat… I feed them sugar water but it is not the same.

    As I ponder this, I just wonder what we can do. There doesn’t seem there is much we can do. At this point we are just conserving water so we can have something to drink, everything else becoming secondary. I’m just wondering when they will set water restrictions on the gas drilling rigs that keep popping up and injecting millions of gallons of water into the subsoil to “frac” the shale and release the gas. From what I understand, they have “first dibs” ahead of even drinking water supplies.

    Having lived in Southern California for a while, there was a joke that always showed up during the many droughts: A farmer looked at his dry land, looked up into the sky, and asked “Why oh why lord is it so dry? Why is there no rain? What have we done to deserve this punishment?” And a booming voice came from the sky and said “You live in a desert!”

    Could this be a start of the “new normal” for Texas? Many climatologists indicate that it is probably so. Human migration won’t only be happening in Bangladesh as it floods… large areas of Texas / New Mexico may become uninhabitable, with some areas becoming very similar to the Sahara desert.

  • for now, but cyclical droughts of this severity could become more common–a cycle of severe drought/moderating rain could become the new normal. If weather patterns shift a bit more North as the climate warms, then the deserts that currently exist in Mexico and the SW US will gradually expand to much of the rest of the South, while the rainfall that the South normally experiences will move toward the Mid-Atlantic and northern tier states.

  • I have no quibble with their scientific conclusions, but it is depressing to think that if the sun goes into a century of cooling, earth will cool by 0.3 deg. Celsius. Meanwhile, global warming will generate 5.0 deg. Celsius warming, overwhelming whatever is happening from the sun. Who would have thought man’s activities would be more powerful than those of the sun?

    Of course, the Maunder Minimum is not conclusively the cause of the Little Ice Age of the 17th century. Maybe it had nothing much to do with it. Recent studies of ice core samples from the last great Ice Age on earth show that the cooling occurred very rapidly – a few decades of steady snows and the polar ice caps began to expand irreversibly, or at least irreversibly for about 100,000 years. Something else, then, triggered these ice ages, and once the process was triggered, it could not stop. Rather the reverse of what we are doing with global warming.

  • But as I watched the non-stop media blitz of hurricane coverage, I couldn’t help but consider that church goers in these parts prayed for a hurricane of similar qualities.

    (I’m not one of them.)

    I did inhale.

  • Regardless of the reason, be it influence by man or not, the fact is that the earth climate is changing towards being warmer overall.

    If it is influenced by man, and we consider the change to be bad, then we should do something to minimize or reverse human influence.

    If it is not influenced by man, then there isn’t much we can do about it, except adapt.

    Given the way that humans behave, taking action to counteract any human influence will be next to impossible to undertake, so we can forget about that.

    All that is left is “adapt or perish”. Humans are good at adapting, but it will take several generations for the “New Normal” to become an actual normal.

    As for nature and the earth itself… it doesn’t care. Life will go on in a completely different ecosystem. Major flora and fauna will be gone (you can blame man directly for that regardless of climate change), but life will continue. And man will continue, although it is near it’s own tipping point, and if I were to check in 500 years I would not be surprised to find a total population of humans of well under 1 billion (maybe even 100 million), instead of the 7 billion we currently have.

  • That’s about as established as any proposition gets in science. So many models have been run, and then run without the contributions of humans, to show that indeed humans are the major contributor.

    An interesting question is whether, without humans, the Earth would currently be just beginning to cool slightly on the downtown to another ice age.

    But add human activity to the modeling and the results show unequivocally that humans are pushing the current climate change cycles we are seeing.

    I am amazed by how deeply the Big Oil and Coal propaganda pushes have affected even people who say they understand GW is anthropogenic. They want to sound reasonable so they include the caveats. Fine. I do that too.

    But the idea that humans are not causing GW is not a caveat. It’s not reasonable. It’s just wrong. There are no accepted comprehensive climate modeling projects that lead to the conclusion that humans are not causing warming.

    And there is certainly no accepted comprehensive climate modeling that concludes that the earth is not warming.

    Not NOAA, not NASA, not IPCC, not Woods Hole, none of the major research teams assigned to monitor climate change lead to either of those conclusions.

    For example:


    Richard Muller of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has gained a solid scientific reputation for his work in astrophysics and particle physics. He’s waded into policy debates over nuclear weapons and terrorism as a member of the secretive JASON panel. And his introductory course, Physics for Future Presidents, is popular among undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley.

    But that impressive track record of research, teaching, and service wasn’t why the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives invited Muller to testify last week. The topic was climate change research and policy, and Republicans wanted Muller to discuss his recent reanalysis of global temperature records. Republicans expected Muller to challenge the accepted wisdom that the earth has warmed 0.7ËšC since the 1880s. But to the dismay of skeptic bloggers, his preliminary analysis supports that canonical view.

    More Berkeley data is here:


    Scroll down to the “Climate” Category for relevant datasets

  • San Angelo Standard-Times, By Kate Galbraith & Kiah Collier, October 27

    Robert Lee, TX – A year into the driest stretch in recorded state history, most Texans are still far from running out of water. But the devastating economic impact is beginning to extend beyond rural agriculture and into tourism, real estate and other staples of more urbanized economies.

    The tiny town of Robert Lee, the self-described “Playground of West Texas,” is already reeling from these problems.

    A few miles west of town, the E.V. Spence Reservoir, normally at least three times the size of downtown, is now 99.55 percent empty. The lake not only serves as the sole water supply for the town’s 1,049 residents but is also a highly valued component of its economy.

    When the lake is at healthier levels, Robert Lee Mayor John Jacobs said, the average wait time at the boat ramps on holidays and weekends is half an hour. Now, he said, there’s no place to put a boat, and the steady stream of out-of-towners from Midland and other West Texas cities has dwindled considerably.

    “There’s no doubt that it’s affected the economy,” Jacobs said, noting the town’s sales tax revenue, which has been down for five months out of the year, has suffered because of a lag in tourism and, to a smaller extent, agricultural losses. “It’s been declining, as the level in Spence has come down. The weekenders and whatnot have pretty well quit coming.”

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

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