Spot the Outlier

Thanks to reader MM for pointing out John Nielsen-Gammon’s latest posting at the Houston Chronicle site. It is very much worth a read if you are interested in climate or in Texas. (It happens that I am obsessed with both, as readers probably know.)

I’ll steal just one of the stunning graphics as a teaser:

Climate change is now, folks, and this is what it looks like.

Will Texas revert to its normal, already quite variable, range? Well, yeah, probably. Will it ever be too wet again? I wouldn’t be surprised. (Remind me to talk about why I believe that year over year climate variability is going to increase almost everywhere. I really don’t think most people are thinking about this right. Take note of 2004 and 2007 over on the right side of the figure, for instance.)

But will there be another year like this next year? That’s up to the tropical Pacific of all places. Another La Nina year (as some ENSO models predict) might just do us a lot of damage if it pans out the way this one did. Two years in a row like this one would cause permanent environmental damage to Texas. It’s hard to imagine many unwatered trees left alive anywhere from El Paso to Texarkana if that happens.

And it’s far from clear that the infrastructure would hold up either.


  1. Dr. N-G has posted an interesting and cautious analysis of the factors affecting the current extreme drought and record summer temperatures in Texas: Texas drought and global warming. He attributes approximately 1 degree F of the 5.4 degrees F above average summer temperatures to global warming, and the rest (about 4.4 degrees F) to the extreme drought, which in turn he relates to the cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), La Niña, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).

  2. We were married in Arizona in 2005 and a friend took us camping over the border in Pinacate Reserve. It was the Spring after the first decent winter rain in years…and the last one since then. Parts were incredibly beautiful, carpeted in wildflowers. But wbat our friend pointed out were the miles of dead, dessicated, *mature* creosote bushes we drove through. Mature Creosote was thought to never die from drought. Carbon dating of living plants show them to have lived through 2000 years of wet/dry cycles.

  3. Tory, yes, this seems to qualify as a 13. Bleah.John, thanks. Hook 'em! Beat the Sooners! Go Texas! Let us know the score when it comes in, please.Anna, too funny. I could use me some of that Climatic Wealth about now.

  4. Today (August 31) will decide which state (Texas or Oklahoma) gets bragging rights to warmest summer (June-August) ever in the United States. We'll both break Oklahoma 1934 by well over a degree F.

  5. "How hot was it in Oklahoma last month? Of all 67,152 months of statewide average temperature records for the 48 contiguous states, none has been hotter than July 2011 in Oklahoma."Oklahoma Mesonet

  6. On the Southern California coast the water is unseasonably cool. It has not warmed to a normal late summer temperature, and all the surfers are still in full wetsuits. So, from the perspective of the edge of the eastern Pacific, we are still in La Niña.

  7. If the curve fit represents a 'normal' June-July-August, isn't it interesting that 2006, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are all above the curve? Not that there's anything causal about that, but above the line is hotter than normal. Or is it the new normal – just like 100 is the new 90?

  8. Favorite jaw-dropper in Dr. N-G's post:We’re on track for an August average temperature of 88.1 F. There’s still time for it to change by a few tenths, but not only will we shatter the previous August record (by over 2 F), but we’ll also break the all-time record for warmest month by about 1 F. The all-time record, by the way, was set just last month.

  9. That's indeed pretty astounding. Presumably the fire ants will simply be encouraged, like they are by electrical panels and other things normal creatures avoid. Roger Pielke Sr. weighs in at Nielsen-Gammon's post, talking about enthalpy: it's not -really- that hot, because dry bulb temperature does not reflect enthalpy. Another poster suggests that enthalpy does not really offer the emotional comfort Pielke is seeking, pointing out that "The energy change [via enthalpy over the past 30 years] is large – enough in terms of gravitational potential energy for a cylinder of air 100m in diameter to lift an SUV 700m / decade or a bicycle to the outer atmosphere – but dwarfed by changes in ocean heat content.

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