A Look at Just How Bad Texas's Drought Has Been

2011 has been both the hottest and driest summer for Texas in at least 116 years

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Anyone who needs further proof of the severity of the drought in Texas this summer--and Texans certainly don't; they just can go outside--need not look further than today's Chart of the Day, below. Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon summarizes at the Houston Chronicle how the combination of above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall in the two-month period that ended Wednesday created one of the worst droughts in the state's history.

Or perhaps, if we go by the empirical measures in his chart, we can call it the worst. Nielsen-Gammon asks readers if they can spot the outlier below.

Clearly it's the summer of 2011, which was both the hottest and driest one since at least 1895, when data was first collected. The drought, of course, isn't limited to the political borders of the Lone Star State. At least 14 states have faced drought conditions this summer, according to The New York Times. But it certainly seems as though it hit Texas the worst. Consider the drought map dated August 30 from the University of Nebraska.  In no other state is it as widespread or severe.

For Texas farmers, ranchers, oilman, and other business-types, the drought means lost money; for every other Texan it means cranking up the AC. The drought has become a touchstone for climate scientists and journalists in the debate over global warming. But compared to Hurricane Irene, which is estimated to cost between $7 and $10 billion, the 2011 Southern drought, with its own price tag of $5 billion, it hasn't made much news (outside the regions affected). To Joe Romm at ThinkProgress, who rounded up analysis of the drought nicely, the implications of the lack of media attention are dire:

Texas provides the “hell” — while Irene provide the "High Water" — in Hell and High Water.  Yet this uber-extreme weather will probably be a not-terribly-unusual summer in Texas by around mid-century, if climate science deniers like Governor Rick Perry continue to be successful in blocking serious climate action — and if the media continues to refuse to connect any dots whatsoever.

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