Dust-Bowl-ification News for July 11: ‘Once-in-a-century’ Texas drought stunting crops; Drought twice as likely to lead to mental health problems

Drought monitor map of the state Texas

‘Once-in-a-century’ drought sending campers indoors and stunting crops

North Texas has had average rainfall this year, and three “cool” days this week felt like Christmas in July. But don’t tell your friends in Central and South Texas, because they are feeling hot, parched and bothered. A “once-in-a-century” drought is baking a big swath of Texas, says John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and a professor at Texas A&M University. The drought is “zeroing out” crops and forcing ranchers to liquidate their herds….

The river is flowing at 10 cubic feet per second, Lyons said Wednesday. “Normal for this time of the year is 100 to 200 cfs,” he said. “We used to think 100 was low, but the last two years have changed our perspective.”

People are comparing the conditions to the epic drought of the 1950s, he said. “It’s been so dry it’s even killing cedar trees, so you know it’s dry.”

Drought twice as likely to lead to mental health problems

If you live in a drought-affected area, you’re twice as likely to suffer a mental health problem, according to a new study.

The details of the study are here [big PDF].  Here’s another story on it:

The long, long dry: less drink, more drugs

Australia’s extended drought is having a severe impact on the mental health of farmers and their partners “” but they are not turning to alcohol to drown their sorrows. A new study shows that men and women in drought-affected areas are drinking less alcohol than those in areas unaffected by the long dry spell. But they are much more likely to be swallowing antidepressants. “People might think drought is part of life in Australia and that farmers become resilient, but this sustained drought is having a severe impact on farmers’ mental health,” said Matthew Gray, deputy director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and a co-author of the study. The 2007 survey was based on a sample of 8000 people in regional and rural Australia, 60 per cent of whom were in drought-affected areas. It reveals that 17 per cent of farmers in these areas were suffering from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, compared with 8 per cent of farmers in non-drought areas.

The shape of things to come on our current emissions path:

23 Responses to Dust-Bowl-ification News for July 11: ‘Once-in-a-century’ Texas drought stunting crops; Drought twice as likely to lead to mental health problems

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Well, it’s not quite to Irving, yet — which is where the largest publicly-traded oil company on the planet is headquartered, I think (and a very stubborn one at that). But, it’s gettin’ there. Of course, hard to tell whether any particular weather event or season has to do with the global warming trend, but (anyhow) it’s the basic science of the matter that should have given us (a fairly long time ago) a wake-up call.



  2. Ron Broberg says:

    Here is the problem with looking at any one drought as a part of climate change.

    A couple of years ago until recently, the corner of Georgia and Tennessee was suffering extreme drought. Today it’s gone. Will this drought pass in a few years. Yes. And many who came to think that this drought was a sign of global warming will wonder if global warming has stopped.

    So how do you sort out long term trends in percip and aridity -v- drought events?

    [JR: Until the climate actually changes — the subtropics expand and the SW turns to a dust bowl for 1000 years — droughts in arid regions simply become longer and stronger, Australia being the koala-in-the-bushfire example. And so you see these once-in-a-century droughts every decade or so. I’ll have to do another post on the expansion of the subtropics. But for now you can read the various links at the bottom of the post.]

  3. Gail says:

    I think the essence of climate change is volatility. The lack of stability means wild swings in precipitation within an overall trend. The problem with that is plants and soils cannot always recuperate after severe drought, even if it is followed by a season of adequate rain. Which is why climate change is always followed by mass extinctions. We have already changed the climate, it is going to change more and in unpredictable ways. Buckle your seatbelt.

  4. Alex J says:

    Since it’s the trends in frequency, severity, and persistence that matter most, the best we can do is suggest there might be an influence from warming if one of those things could be seen as unusual. Obviously there can also be regional factors at work, but if you’re adding energy to the climate system as a whole, you’re also altering regional dynamics and the odds of a severe event. Not quite the same (or as simple) as arguing over whether or not global warming “caused” something (as the media often frames it). That’s the problem: There’s a lot of detail/nuance in climatology that isn’t very compatible with the soundbite society.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    “Climate update – ongoing decline in South-East Australian rainfall”:

  6. Andy says:

    Listen to what the veggie farmer has to say. He’s fed up with the weather. As am I. 3 weeks now of 100+ degree temps in Houston. When it cools off to 92 around sunset I go outside and it feels refreshing compared to the mid-day heat when it seems the sun is trying to bore a hole into my brain. It hasn’t rained at my place since April 28th. We usually get 52″ a year. Our average temperature (day and night averaged together) for July has been about 88 degrees. But, GISS’ climate model predicts 3 months of 100+ weather as the normal for our area come 2080. This isn’t the desert. Our humidities typically range from 50 to 80% during the daytime so this kind of heat is unbearable. Bascially, Texas will become a training ground for hell by 2080. I guess this area, which is now very lush and resembles Lousiana, is going to become semi-desert like Austin or Dallas. I can’t believe most people around here think global warming isn’t a big deal. The local newspaper does ok, but the television and radio news coverage is criminal.

  7. paulm says:

    Nuclear is dead. Long live nuclear power, not.

    Olkiluoto 3’s turbine
    The turbine is the world’s largest and will generate about 2m horse power
    When it is finished, Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor will be the biggest the world has ever seen, the excavation site alone is the size of 55 football fields.

    hopes of an early nuclear dawn on the Baltic coast are fading – the May start up date came and went and the OL3 is now not expected to begin pumping out electricity until 2012 – three years later than planned and about $2.4bn dollars (1.7bn euros) over budget.

  8. Rick Covert says:


    I’ve been through a few hot dry spells here in Texas. There was one in the mid 1950’s and that was the impetus to get Congressman Lyndon Johnson of Texas to get federal dollars to build a bunch of reservoirs around Dallas. Then in the summer of 1978 there was another bad drought. I was still in New Jersey when that one happened but I experienced the 1980 drought personally because I worked outdoors that summer in various projects around the Corpus Christi area. One was a Reynolds aluminum smelting plant and the heat inside the plant from the smelting process was only slightly hotter than what was going on outside. In 1998 we had a terrible heat wave in Houston and another in 2000. One of my neighbors died in that one.

    How does this current one compare to the others? Our local media outlets in Houston talk about the number of 100º F heat days but dare not mention the words “global warming.”

  9. paulm says:

    I think over the next couple of years everyone is going to be a CC convert!
    2008/2009 tipping point.

    Wild weather in the year ahead, scientists predict
    Climate scientists have warned of wild weather in the year ahead as the start of the global “El Niño” phenomenon exacerbates the impact of global warming. As well as droughts, floods and other extreme events, the next few years are also likely to be the hottest on record, scientists say.

    In the UK, a Met Office spokesman said yesterday that the El Niño event was likely to cause a hot, dry summer following a warm June, but said it could have other unpredictable effects on weather in Britain and north-west Europe. “Much depends on how much the El Niño deepens in the next few months.”

  10. paulm says:

    Odd how this is probably coincidental with the peak oil decade.

  11. paulm says:

    Will national behavior be as chaotic? When it comes to water things will not be pretty…

    India prays for rain as water wars break out

    The monsoon is late, the wells are running dry and in the teeming city of Bhopal, water supply is now a deadly issue. Gethin Chamberlain reports

  12. Bob Wright says:

    Check out the “Parched Prairie” article in Climate Ark right next to these comments. Alberta is having back to back nasty droughts. Meanwhile the northeast US has been blessed with Canadian air, plenty of rain, and off shore winds all summer. I feel guilty.

  13. Lou Grinzo says:

    Speaking of drought, my (ad-free) graphs page has graphs and charts on a bunch of energy and environmental topics, including US drought conditions, CO2 and methane levels, Arctic and Antarctic ice coverage, and a histogram showing how many times per week my neighbor’s dog has “done his business” on my front lawn over the last 12 months.

    OK, not so much on that last one. But the rest is true…

  14. Gary Thompson says:

    Canada has a drought and 100 miles away the precip is above normal.

  15. Nancy says:

    Lou, That is an excellent collection of graphs & charts. Thank you for assembling them.


    PS Happy Anniversary. I wonder what the world will be like when you celebrate your 60th.

  16. Chris Winter says:

    Over at Thoughts from Kansas, Josh Rosenau reminds us that a substantial percentage of American households faces food insecurity (11.1 percent according to USDA 2007 data.) It may well be that those without much money can get by on low-priced fast food, but this is far from nutritionally optimum. The projected increases in drought conditions due to climate change can only make vegetables and fruits more expensive, and will make locally grown produce unavailable in many areas.

  17. Gail says:

    I like “The Great Transformation” better than “The Great Disruption” as a concept to explore how humanity should cope with the confluence of crises that we face. I’m only into Chapter Three but this is a fascinating (free!) ebook:

  18. 7 paulm:

    Finland chose a former Soviet contractor.

  19. paulm says:

    I wonder why?

  20. paulm says:

    Great graph page lou. Pandemics??

  21. paulm says:

    Almost 250 children under the age of five have died in a wave of intensely cold weather in Peru.

    Children die from pneumonia and other respiratory infections every year during the winter months particularly in Peru’s southern Andes.

    But this year freezing temperatures arrived almost three months earlier than usual.

    Experts blame climate change for the early arrival of intense cold which began in March.

  22. paulm says:

    Fourteen Chinese hikers have been killed after heavy rain and flash flooding hit a scenic gorge near the south-western city of Chongqing.

    A sudden rainstorm on Saturday afternoon triggered a wall of water several metres high, which swept the group down several kilometres of the Tanzhangxia Gorge.

  23. Uosdwis says:

    Except it won’t be “once in a century,” it will be all century long.