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Drought to last at least until early summer

Then it’s just a guess

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The drought that has plagued Texas is virtually certain to continue at least until early summer, climate experts said on Tuesday at a conference in Fort Worth, as reported by the Texas Tribune:

But what happens after that is anyone’s guess.

The main cause of the drought, the most intense in recorded Texas history, is back-to-back episodes of La Niña, a Pacific Ocean phenomenon that almost always brings dry conditions to the state. The bad news is that, based on the historical record, there is a 40 percent chance of La Niña returning for a third consecutive year, according to Klaus Wolter, a research associate with the Earth Research Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That record consists of 10 instances over the past century in which La Niña has appeared for two years in a row (normally it does not recur). However, Wolter emphasized, 10 episodes is a fairly limited data set. And — here’s the good news — the other six times, an El Niño has followed the two La Niñas, bringing unusually wet weather.

“If we were to switch to El Niño next summer, the record of the last decade would indeed favor an end of the 2010-2012 drought,” according to Wolter.

Climate experts expect to have publishable insights by June into whether to expect El Niño, La Niña or neither.

Spring is normally the wettest season in Texas, and if the state is to work its way out of the drought, May and June will be “the really, really key time periods,” said Victor Murphy, a scientist with NOAA. Temperatures next summer, according to Murphy, are “likely warmer than normal, but not likely to emulate the historic heat of last summer.” MORE

Photo: Tony Tarver

 

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