Texas is likely to experience its warmest winter in 130 years, according to the World Economic Forum. Considering last year’s deep freeze is still haunting those of us in the deep South, that may sound like a relief. Although, as I’m writing this, our Powerball-esque weather has thrown us a low number, so it doesn’t feel like it would be that warm at the moment. Just last week, we had our first freeze here in Louisiana, then it got up in the ’70s a few days later. Then it got a bit cold again. This is what I mean by Powerball-esque. As we deal with yo-yo temperatures, it’s hard for most to take notice of what the World Economic Forum is pointing out.
And although they focused on Texas, which is the second largest state in the US, this affects the South as a whole. The article cited John Nielson-Gammon, a regents professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University who is also the state’s climatologist. Nielsen-Gammon pointed out that December 2021 was the state’s warmest on record since 1889.
“It’s like the entire state moved south for the winter. Amarillo got Dallas’s normal temperatures, Dallas got Corpus Christi’s normal temperatures, and Austin got Brownsville’s normal temperatures.
“Not only is it by far the warmest December since the beginning of comprehensive weather records, it will probably also turn out to be the warmest winter month, period.”
With an average temperature of 58.4 degrees Fahrenheit, February 2017 currently holds the record for the warmest winter month in Texas. Nielsen-Gammon noted that the official state record for the warmest December is held by December 1933 at 53.3 degrees. He added that the 20th century average for December was 46.9 degrees.
“Texas has never had any month more than 10 degrees above the 20th-century average until now.”
Nielsen-Gammon thinks that once all the data are in, December 2021 will top that by averaging nearly 12 degrees above the long-term average. Yet there is another December in recorded history with similar warmth — 1889. It was also an unusual month.
“Observing practices were different, but it’s clear that December 1889 was an unusual month also. The first decent cold front of that month was on December 29.”
Drought Is A Side Effect Of The Warmer Temperatures
Nielsen-Gammon pointed out that in West Texas, it hasn’t rained for over two months. And the high temperatures increase the rate of evaporation and dry out everything. This leads to increased wildfire risk. The warm weather has made the state’s drought situation more severe and the hot weather exacerbated drought conditions throughout the state. the US Drought Monitor noted that over two-thirds of Texas is currently in drought, with 10% being in extreme drought.
In October 2019, I covered Drive Electric Week events in Abita Springs, Louisiana, and paid for it with sunburns. I drank so much water that day I thought I would turn into a river. The point I’m making is that I’ve noticed the changes. The summers are hotter. The winters are warmer, but when they do get cold, they have a tendency to be a bit extreme. February 2021 is a great example of that. There were even some instances in 2020 when it was warmer in Antarctica than it was in Baton Rouge.
The question is: what can we do about it? Aside from trying to slow and eventually stop the warming, we need to focus on adapting. I plan to invest in solar-powered generators for the next hurricane season. Ida was hell.
Featured image courtesy of US Drought Monitor.
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