The climate is changing, and Texas is growing. For a bird’s eye view of these developments, NASA has put together a ‘State of Flux‘ image gallery that shows how climate change, urbanization, and natural disasters have changed certain geographic features in Texas, and across the world. The gallery puts two satellite images side-by-side to show the changes.
We culled the images about Texas below, where you can see seven side-by-side comparisons that show the effects of drought and urbanization on the state. While not every weather and wildfire event below was directly caused by climate change, scientists say climate change has made them worse. (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)
Drought Drains Lake Merideth
Lake Meredith is located in the Texas Panhandle, about 35 miles north of Amarillo. The picture on the right shows Lake Meredith at a record low of 26.41 feet after the 2011 drought. The bright green portions indicate areas of healthy vegetation growth.
After the jump: wildfires, sprawl and storm surges …
In September, the most recent month for the data, drillers in Texas pulled about 2.7 million barrels of oil a day from the earth, most of it from the state’s two hottest shale plays, in the Eagle Ford region in South Texas and the Permian Basin in the west.
“The Permian’s already producing over a million barrels a day of oil, and the Eagle Ford’s up to about 650,000 barrels per day. And so it appears to be only a matter of time before we have two oil fields in Texas producing — by themselves — a million barrels per day,” Tom Tunstall, Director of the Center for Community and Business Research at University of Texas at San Antonio tells StateImpact Texas.
But the current 2.7 million barrel per day figure figure is “record-breaking” only in terms of government records. The fact is that Texas pumped far more oil in the early seventies, but the EIA simply did not keep track of daily oil production back then. According to historical annual data, provided to StateImpact Texas by the EIA, the Texas oil boom peaked in 1972, when drillers pumped around 3.4 million barrels a day on average from Texas oil fields.
Still, if trends continue, experts say the new boom could rival the previous one in a matter of years. Continue Reading
The floods that hit Austin in the early hours of Halloween morning killed at least five people and damaged more than 500 homes.
Some parts of the city received nearly 10 inches of rain in a 24 hour span, and Austin’s rivers, creeks, and streams rose to historic levels.
One of the lasting images from the floods was a photo of the statue of Austin legend Stevie Ray Vaughan waist-deep in water. The photographer who captured that photo, Reagan Hackleman, rushed down to Lady Bird Lake to get the photos. His images show water bursting up from manholes and the Lamar Street Bridge nearly covered by the rising river.
Hackleman spoke with StateImpact Texas’ Mose Buchele about the experience of taking the photographs, and what it was like to see the city transformed by the floods.
When it comes to spectator sports, it might not rank with college football in Texas. But when a state senate committee held a hearing last week to figure out if something is wrong with the state’s deregulated market for electricity, people far from Texas were glued to their computers, watching the hearing live over the internet.
“In all my experience, I’ve never really seen anything in which the Texas Public Utility Commission’s officials have been taken to task in such an aggressive manner by a state legislative hearing,” said Paul Patterson, a New York-based investment analyst who watched the hearing.
Patterson and others who keep close tabs on the nation’s electricity industry are eager to see how Texas handles a problem also facing other states: is there a risk of power shortages if more power plants aren’t built? And if the risk is real, who will foot the gigantic bill? Continue Reading
View North Texas Earthquakes in a larger map
A map of recent earthquakes (in red) and oil and gas wastewater disposal wells outside of Fort Worth. Active disposal wells are in green; inactive wells are in yellow. Map by Michael Marks/Terrence Henry
UPDATE: Another earthquake, magnitude 2.7, hit two miles north of Azle, Texas at approximately 9:44 Tuesday morning the 3rd of December according to the United States Geological Survey.
Another earthquake struck near the town of Azle just after midnight Friday, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale. It was the 17th quake in the area around Eagle Mountain Lake (northwest of Fort Worth) in November, the largest a 3.6. No injuries have been reported from the quakes, but one local tells StateImpact Texas that the quakes are causing damage to homes and unnerving residents.
“It has damaged my house, my driveway is cracking down the driveway,” says Rebecca Williams of Azle. Cracks have also appeared on the outside of her home and in a retaining wall in her backyard. “When these [earthquakes] happen, my whole house shakes,” she says.
What’s behind the tremors? The area is not known for its seismic activity, but does have several wells used for disposing of wastewater from oil and gas drilling. Water used during the fracking process, as well as water that comes back up the well with oil and gas deposits, is typically disposed of by injecting it deep underground into wastewater wells. Those disposal wells, often located a mile or deeper underground, have been known to cause earthquakes in other parts of Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as other states like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Ohio. And they are the likely culprit here, says Ken Morgan, Director of the Energy Institute at Texas Christian University. Continue Reading
Pie. Planes. Political arguments at the family table. It all takes energy – but how much exactly?
As the busiest travel days of the year intersect with back-to-back days of excess consumption and consumerism, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess the energy impact of Thanksgiving.
Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, is just the person to do that. He put together a look at the carbon imprint of Thanksgiving, and what he found will likely bring you down a bit. Sure, there are those flights and car trips that require fuel, but there’s also the massive amount of energy needed to get all that food on the table.
Take a listen:
Disclosure: The Energy Institute has been a sponsor of StateImpact Texas.
Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. And some lawmakers voiced concerns during a public hearing at the Capitol yesterday.
The Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing to question the Public Utility Commission, or PUC, about the possible change to the market.
Right now, power companies get paid when they produce electricity. The change could end up paying those power companies twice: once for the power they produce, and a second time just for owning or building power plants. The proposal is aimed at encouraging power companies to build new plants – to help avoid power shortages that have led to rolling blackouts in the past. Continue Reading
Eventually, the reservoirs should fill back up. (Hopefully.) But it’s unclear if Texas’ infrastructure will be able to hold back the waters once that happens.
Experts say that Texas’ dams have incurred severe damage because of the drought and subsequent rains. Dry conditions can cause cracks to form in the dams, which undermines their structural integrity.
For state parks in Texas, the struggle has always been money. In the early 1900s, Texas landowners tried to donate large tracts of property to create state parks. But they were turned down by state lawmakers – they didn’t want to fund the maintenance cost. So when the land was accepted, it was without the promise of upkeep. Now, as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department winds down its 50th year in operation, it seems like very little has changed.
“I think, in a way, the parks exemplify the worst that we’ve got in budgeting, as far as the Senate and House are concerned,” state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, said at a panel on parks during the Texas Tribune Festival earlier this year.
And here’s why he thinks that: Texas Parks and Wildlife is the only state agency with a dedicated sales tax. Under state law, a portion of the sales tax on sporting goods is meant to go for parks. But lawmakers consistently divert some of that money to balance the state budget.
“If you’re raising $260 million, and you’re using 25 percent of that for its intended purpose, and then you’re back-loading to certify the budget the balance of it — Well, then you’re leaving your parks out.”
The situation was even worse for parks a few years back when the department’s budget was slashed along with those of most other state agencies. Continue Reading