The Texas State Climatologist says the current drought could last another 15 years.
John Nielsen-Gammon is not predicting it will be 15 more years. He says the drought probably will last at least ‘til this time next year, the period about which climatologists have good confidence, and could last another five years, and 2025 is within the realm of possibility.
“The point is not to try to make a firm prediction, like predicting tomorrow’s high temperature,” Nielsen-Gammon added, “but to say that there is a stronger-than-usual possibility of continued drought, even a probability, although nobody can say for sure.”
He explained that a lot of factors come together to determine Blanco County’s long-range climate. The rain storms move in fronts driven by upper level winds, which trace back to El Niño and La Niña, the water temperature events in the central Pacific, and those in turn are affected by the winds off Siberia and East Asia...and by the decades-long cycles in Pacific climate, and so on.
Every time researchers figure out what drives one of those layers of weather-influencers, they find another cycle underlying it.
However long it lasts, our drought won’t look like the dustbowl of the 1930s, though.
“Drought doesn’t have to mean there’s no rain at all,” Nielsen-Gammon related, “but just less rain than normal, which adds up over time to a very dry period.
“Five of the past seven years have been drought years. This drought could continue for another year or two, or longer, then give way to a normal or even wet year, only to return for more drier-than-normal years.”
Short-term, Nielsen-Gammon doesn’t have good news for us.
“Winter is normally our re-charge season for soil moisture. This winter will be drier than normal across the state, although some areas, especially in North Texas, may get moisture approaching normal.
“The rest of us won’t, though, so we’ll start next summer with dry soil, and that may make this past summer — the worst on record — look pretty good by comparison.”
Without moisture in the soil to evaporate, it could mean even less rain. Less rain would further kill more trees and brush, and that would make the fire season earlier and longer.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor shows Blanco County’s drought already is causing long-term damage to the environment and water supply.
This summer, Llano watched the Llano River — its only source of water — dry up. It wasn’t as bad as the ’50s, when the river went dry for three months and the town had to haul water in by railroad, but it was close enough that everyone recalled those history lessons.
“That’s a good warning,” said Nielsen-Gammon. “Not only should we all be preparing for another year like this past one, but we also should be thinking about what we’ll do if 2012 turns out to be even worse.”