Warming-Fueled Texas Drought Cost Farmers $7.6 Billion: ‘No One Alive Has Seen Single-Year Drought Damage To This Extent’

Texas Agronomists have revised estimates for the cost of Texas’ devastating drought, finding that it cost the agricultural sector $2 billion more than originally thought.

According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas drought has caused $7.62 billion in damages to crops and farming operations. That’s up from $5.3 billion reported last August.

Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon explained last September:

Warmer temperatures lead to greater water demand, faster evaporation, and greater drying-out of potential fuels for fire. Thus, the impacts of the drought were enhanced by global warming, much of which has been caused by man.

Nearly every single agricultural sector in the state was hammered by the record-breaking drought that began in 2010, causing a ripple effect through global commodity markets. With livestock, cotton, peanut and even pumpkin crops hit hard, shortages of product is driving prices up and putting a squeeze on farmers in the state

“When you are one of the biggest agricultural producing states in the nation, a monumental drought causes enormous losses,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said in a statement this week after the new damage figures were released. Other agricultural experts weighed in on the devastating impact to Texas farmers:

“2011 was the driest year on record and certainly an infamous year of distinction for the state’s farmers and ranchers,” said Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock economist. “The $7.62 billion mark for 2011 is more than $3.5 billion higher than the 2006 drought loss estimates, which previously was the costliest drought on record. The 2011 losses also represent about 43 percent of the average value of agricultural receipts over the last four years.”

“No one alive has seen single-year drought damage to this extent,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and a member of the Governor’s Drought Preparedness Council. “Texas farmers and ranchers are not strangers to drought, but the intensity of the drought, reflected in record high temperatures, record low precipitation, unprecedented winds coupled with duration – all came together to devastate production agriculture.”

Like a baseball hitter on steroids, climatologists say that the likelihood of the Texas drought was increased due to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists at NASA, including climatologist James Hansen, said in January that analysis of 50 years of temperature data show that the Texas drought was “a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.”

Texas A&M, climate scientist Andrew Dessler asserted last August, “there is absolutely no way you can conclude that climate change is not playing a role here. I’m quite surprised that anyone would even suggest that.”  Texas climatologist Katherine Hayhoe recently explained, “our natural variability is now occurring on top of, and interacting with, background conditions that have already been altered by long-term climate change.”

Just as we see during the current heat wave shattering high-temperature records throughout the U.S., climatologists and meteorologists are consistently saying that these extreme weather events are being influenced by extra energy in the atmosphere (see March Madness: ‘This May Be An Unprecedented Event Since Modern U.S. Weather Records Began In The Late 19th Century’).

“It is highly unlikely the warmth of the current ‘Summer in March’ heat wave could have occurred unless the climate was warming,” said Dr. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground in a scientific analysis of the phenomenon.

As the rest of the country catches up to Texas, farmers in the state continue to incur billions in damages — a sign of the economic costs to come.

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23 Responses to Warming-Fueled Texas Drought Cost Farmers $7.6 Billion: ‘No One Alive Has Seen Single-Year Drought Damage To This Extent’

  1. John Hollenberg says:

    I don’t think Texas has much to worry about… Perry doesn’t believe in Global Warming, so they should be fine.

    PS How’s that “pray for rain” thing workin’ out for ya?

  2. Raindog says:

    I used that graph in a class I taught and a student asked “What about 2007?”

    It’s a good question. Do you have an answer? 2007 is almost as much of an outlier as 2011 but in the opposite direction.

    Not that I don’t think that global warming is occurring. I know that it is. But that data point illustrates why one must be really careful with weather.

  3. bratisla says:

    it would be of the highest irony if the last Flood was, in fact, a way for God to answer the prayers of the denial-driven humans and show them definitely the consequences of their hubris …

  4. juergen Hartl says:

    Maybe Ricky prayed to theverong goods.

  5. Crease says:

    As I recall Perry was once the Agri head in Texas and did nothing then as he is doing now by leaving this disater in the hands of G0D.When Jim Hightower was the Agri head he would have been more proactive and not reactive to G0D’s so called punishment.

  6. Joe Romm says:

    2007 isn’t an outlier.

  7. mjcc1987 says:

    Nope, not happening. Frothy Mix says it ain’t real. Rick “God Ordained Me” Perry says this is a fluke and not really happening. It’s so fake they took out any references in science books and hire only Pat Robertson U graduates to do the weather on local TeeVee, Radio, and them papers with word in’em.

  8. berry says:

    The good news: Human caused climate change is becoming unigornable. The depths of human ignorance is almost unfathomable.

  9. Raindog says:

    OK, but 2007 does make it harder to see a trend towards hotter and dryer summers. If one of the coolest and wettest summers recorded was only 5 years ago it’s hard to make a trend of it. If you want to explain last summer as a result of global warming, then you have to also explain 2007 in that context.

    My point is broader – I still think it is a bad idea to explain single events or single winters or summers as definitely being a result of climate change. Because then when we have a cold winter, a cool summer or a year without hurricanes people don’t believe you anymore.

    It’s fine to say – this sort of summer will become more common in the future, or we will have more extreme weather events as a consequence of global warming. But what if we now have a summer like 2007 this year in Texas? What are we going to say? Last year was because of global warming but this year is because of natural climate variability?

  10. jEREMY says:

    Hey, it just might spoil the rally on Wall Street, now that is a concern!

  11. lidobd says:

    Gee,I can post again without Facebook?
    take care
    \tony and lido

  12. LJL says:

    All bible believing Texans will tell you that the drought proves Man made global warming does not exist because they’re smarter than cow flops.

  13. M Tucker says:

    And the wildfires! Let’s not forget the Texas wildfires. In many places water drop aircraft were used and the only place to get water was from the local lake or reservoir. Already at low levels from several years of below average rainfall, these lakes or reservoirs were all but depleted by the fire fighting effort. Many folks are now not only enduring severe water restrictions but seriously worried that no water is available to fight fires if they occur this season.

  14. Joe Romm says:

    You don’t know a lot about trends do you. The trend is warming. that is not a graph of the yearly trend.

  15. squidboy6 says:

    The graph is June – August rainfall against the same period’s temperature. 2007 isn’t an outlier, it’s well within the graph’s mean.

    2011’s temperature isn’t as far out as the lack of rainfall, but the rainfall probably would have brought the temperature down a little, if it had fallen.

    The average rainfall looks to be about 7 inches while 2011 is ~2″. 2010 was warmer and wetter than this. I’m convinced that climate change is here so another year of data isn’t going to change my mind about the trend, but you have to read a graph critically since it contains more information than you’d get from just looking at the mean.

    2009 & 2008 are also above the mean.

  16. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    If I am reading this right the expectation is for more normal rainfall after April. Unfortunately, temperatures are to remain above normal.

    Which ties in with

    “The 2011–12 La Niña event is nearing its end, with most indicators approaching or at neutral values” With caveats of course, particularly the autumn predicability barrier.

    This could get interesting if we see an end to La Nina but a continuing drought. Either way I am glad I am not a farmer, such difficult choices.

  17. jack says:

    WOW, just think how hard Anthony Watts has to work now and in the future to deny he’s partly responsible for that

  18. a face in the clouds says:

    Any thoughts on the “Bastard Cabbage” problem we are now experiencing?

  19. Mike Roddy says:

    Texans have been trained to deny global warming, except for those like the state climatologist, who nobody pays attention to.

    This brainwashing occurs at all levels, but especially in their newspapers, and Fox is the default TV news outlet. Alex Jones is the voice of wisdom on the radio. The schools are some of the nation’s worst, too, and don’t teach children to think critically.

    The worst brainwashing occurs socially, though, at family and neighborhood gatherings, where anything that threatens the oil industry is viewed as an egghead socialist plot.

    Texans aren’t dumber by nature, but they have certainly been made so. It could get 125 in the summer, and as they leave the state they will blame it on God’s decision to punish wicked liberals. Unfortunately, this means they will stir up trouble in the states they move to, and will bring their guns with them, too.

  20. Interesting Times says:

    I suggest border fences – for Canada and Northern states!

  21. Timeslayer says:

    On Nielsen-Gammon’s statement: “Thus, the impacts of the drought were enhanced by global warming, much of which has been caused by man.”

    This is very misleading. In fact, ALL global warming has been caused by man, as natural climate forcings alone would be slightly cooling the planet right now.

    Why not have the sense to say something fully-intelligent rather than careless and misleading?


  22. squidboy6 says:

    I’d like to think Texans aren’t dumber than average but I have a lot of relatives in Tennessee and I’ve had to spend time there recently and they’re (the population, not just my relatives) are awfully stupid.

    These people turn on air-conditioning when it warms up to 65 degrees, instead of opening windows and turning on fans. Then they turn on their heaters when it gets to be 70 degrees instead of putting on a sweater.

    Their homes are not insulated so they get these huge utility bills. The Texans I’ve met are very similar. But the thing that makes it difficult to sustain your assertion is the way Tennesseans and Texans drive. They don’t understand the laws of physics. Force equals mass times acceleration. The only people dumber than these two groups are in Alabama. I used to be opened minded about it but no longer. They’re idiots.

  23. ahhhh yes, PRIORITIES!! How much fresh water went into the fracking process for all those natural gas wells? OVER A MILLION PER!!!