Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Texas, drought officially over, though northern drought continues

Environment News Service: One of the worst droughts in Texas history has officially ended, according to figures from Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, who also serves as a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. Nielsen-Gammon says that the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Friday, shows none of the state in drought. Only a few small patches of the state, near the Coastal Bend and along the Texas-Mexico border, are still depicted as abnormally dry.

"The drought began in fall 2007, as an unusually wet year for Texas suddenly turned dry," he said. "The lack of rainfall led to the first drought impacts in late fall and winter of 2007-2008. In the summer of 2008 much of the state experienced drought relief with two tropical cyclones, Dolly and Ike, but core areas of the drought in south-central and southern Texas missed out on much of the tropical rainfall," Nielsen-Gammon recounted.

"A second straight dry winter followed, and while spring rains shrunk the area of drought in Texas considerably, core areas of the drought continued to degrade."

…Texans can thank El Nino conditions that warmed the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, said Nielsen-Gammon. "In an El Nino, with warm east Pacific sea surface temperatures, winters tend to be wet, while the opposite happens during a La Nina," he explained. "Two consecutive La Nina winters helped make this drought particularly severe, while the current El Nino conditions have helped to end the drought."….

Some west Texas scenery, shot by Geoemrick, Wikimedia Commons

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