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Looking for someone to blame for cedar fever? Try your ancestors.
Your Grandpa’s Cheeseburger Might Be Making You Sneeze
For many Texans, ‘Cedar Fever’ has its own place in the region’s pantheon of demons, alongside the likes of the Chupacabra, Yolanda Saldivar, and chili with beans. If you’re one of those Texans, the onset of winter, when male mountain cedar plants release their pollen and set the world a-sneezin’, is cause for dread.
It is not unheard of for mountain cedar pollen to amass in the air and create a haze in the Hill Country sky. We’ve been conditioned to look upon a cloud of pollen with unease, but this does little to explain the link between pollen and ‘Cedar Fever.’ Just what is it about this speck of plant material that brings misery to some people? More importantly, how did it become so problematic in Central Texas?
Dr. Edward Brooks researches allergy at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. While admitting that establishing true causality for cedar pollen allergy is “scientifically tricky,” he reveals that scientists have identified certain correlations that suggest some explanation. So far, it appears that incidence of allergy is determined by several factors coming together: an individual’s genetics, the structure of the pollen grain, and how much of that pollen is around. And one of the key factors for that last one is the result of specific land use and management practices by Texans in the late 19th century. If you want to blame someone for cedar fever, you could start with them. Continue Reading
US Drought Monitor Map
The US Drought Monitor Map of July 19 shows marked success for Central and East Texas after just one week of strong rains.
Extra! Extra! It’s the Drought Monitor Map we’ve been waiting for – the one that tallies last week’s plentiful rains. As expected, much progress was made. Perhaps the most notable change on the map: almost all of Southeast Texas is in the white, meaning completely drought-free and likely to stay that way.
In addition, the rains were so strong in Central Texas that parts of the area moved down a whole drought stage in just one week. Travis County, which contains Austin, moved from Stage 2 of the drought to mostly Stage 1. (There is still a small sliver in the northwestern part of the county in Stage 2.) Williamson County, directly north of Travis County, moved from mostly Stage 3 to mostly Stage 2. Several counties west of San Antonio moved from Stage 2 to Stage 1 in just one week as well.
As Texas gradually pries itself out of drought, much of the rest of the country delves deeper into it. According to the National Climactic Data Center, 56 percent of the US is now facing drought conditions. This is significant because it is the largest percentage of area since the infamous drought period of the 1950s. Since much of this is taking place in America’s Corn Belt, officials are concerned about the increase in the price of grain, especially corn.
Back in Texas, progress was real and rapid last week, but do residents of the state no longer need worry about the drought? The consensus amongst some of the state’s meteorologists: the rainfall was great, but it’s gonna take a lot more than a week’s worth of rain to get out of a two-year long record drought. Continue Reading
Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images
At last week’s “Life By the Drop” panel on solutions for solving the water crisis in Texas, not everyone agreed on what the next steps should be. But there was universal acknowledgment that greater conservation efforts were essential for the state’s future.
And Texas’ many water utilities aren’t behind the punch. Many have water conservation plans in place that often include residential rebates for products that reduce water use. The items range from small to large, cheap to expensive, and go from around your yard to inside your bathroom. Water-efficient toilets in Dallas and low-flow shower heads in El Paso are just a few of the incentives that we’ve culled into a ‘Rebate Round-Up’ below, where you can see what water conservation incentives are offered in your city.
How you get that rebate depends on where you are. Some utilities give away free products, others give the money up front and, in a majority of cases, others require proof of purchase. There are also eligibility requirements, so be sure to check those before you go out and buy a fancy rainwater catchment system.
In addition to products, some utilities offer free services. For instance, several cities offer a free water-saving audit. And Forth Worth teaches free seminars with water saving tips for landscaping.
Without any further ado, here’s our water conservation ‘Rebate Round-Up:’ Continue Reading
Randy Haaga / Flickr/Creative Commons
Interstate 10 is flooded near an overpass in Houston after Hurrican Ike. The Houston area was the largest beneficiary of the recent storms in Texas, but of course that can bring harm with it as well.
It’s been an interesting role reversal for Texas weather these past couple of months. June, typically the state’s wettest month, was bone dry. But the high summer, a time of highly variable precipitation, has been downright soggy, especially this current week. Of course, we aren’t complaining.
What does all this wet weather mean for the state’s drought prospects? So far, it’s too early to say anything definitive. The weekly Drought Monitor Map was released Thursday, but the data it uses is cut off earlier in the week, on Tuesday morning. So, the rain the state received in the past two days – a significant amount – has yet to be added.
Still, if certain Texas cities’ recent advancements are any indication, a leap of improvement may be within reach. Continue Reading
The white fruit of the cotton is called the boll. Texas has led the nation in cotton production for over a century.
Texas is cattle country, an image known the world over. What’s perhaps not so well known is the primacy of the other big C: Cotton. In fact, Texas has led the country in cotton production for over a century.
The fate of the state’s cattle industry as it recovers from last year’s drought is well documented. But what of an industry that rivals ranching in economic dominance? How has cotton faired?
To find out we talked to State Extension Cotton Specialist, Dr. Gaylon Morgan. His overall take is positive, especially when compared to last year.
“35 percent of the [state’s] crop is good to excellent right now, 39 percent is fair, and then 26 precent is poor to very poor,” Morgan says. This time last year, he contrasts, “nearly 60 percent of the crop was poor to very poor.” Continue Reading
It’s a typical summer in Texas: hot and dry with occasional bursts of scattered showers. But as the state continues to recover from a historic drought, more than typical weather is needed.
yum9me / Flickr/Creative Commons
An action figure of X-Men's Storm. Her ability to conjure up powerful storms would be highly coveted in drought-stricken Texas.
One way the state can receive precipitation during the summer’s dog days is a tropical storm. Of course, such an event can do as much harm as good. And absent the talents of the X-Men’s Storm, there’s no way to conjure up such an event.
Bob Rose, meteorologist at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), explains what a heat-beating storm would look like: “If we could somehow get a weak tropical storm, or a tropical depression, to come inland maybe along the lower or middle Texas coast, and work its way into Central Texas,” he says, that would be “our perfect mix for bringing significant rain and cooler temperatures.”
Victor Murphy of the National Weather Service agrees with the nourishing potential of a tropical storm. He says that “a tropical cyclone or at the very least a tropical disturbance” would be “the only shot for significant widespread improvement until the fall.” The downside, Murphy explains, is that there is often no way to confirm that a storm is headed toward Texas until, at most, a week out from its landing.
Absent the perfect storm, does Texas have any hopes of breaking the drought anytime soon? Continue Reading
photo courtesy of Show Us Your Togwatee via Flikr http://www.flickr.com/photos/showusyourtogwotee/4426981301/
Texas population is booming in large part because of internal migration. As people from around the country come to the state in search of jobs.
Texas schoolchildren learn the legend surrounding the letters “GTT.” This abbreviation for “Gone to Texas” allegedly became a common sight on the doors of people who had left their homes in search of opportunity in Texas during the mid-nineteenth century.
People may no longer be posting the signs, but the sentiment couldn’t be more timely. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau this week shows that the Texas population boom continues. The report ranks the top U.S. cities for population growth from April 2010 to June 2011. Of the top 15 fastest growing big cities, eight are in Texas.
US Drought Monitor Map
Good news: No exceptional drought. Bad news: Seven percent more of the state in drought conditions.
Last week, Texas hit a milestone in its recovery from drought: no portion of the state was any longer in the worst “exceptional” stage of drought.
The news this week is not quite as good. The drought has returned to some previously drought-free parts of Texas.
A greater amount of the state – seven percent, – has been added to the area experiencing drought since last week’s release of the US Drought Monitor Map.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Meteorologists foresaw a lack of summer precipitation. And, as we reported last week, we’re not likely to receive immediate relief any time soon. But a projected El Niño weather pattern arriving by late summer should help the state’s prospects.
U.S. Drought Monitor Map
The map on the left shows current drought conditions in Texas. None of the state is in exceptional drought. At right, is the October 4, 2011 map. Just 8 months ago, exceptional drought (deep red) covered 88 percent of the state.
On Thursday, we profiled John Jacobs, the mayor of Robert Lee, who compared the onset of last year’s drought to the incremental growth a cancer. “It’s just a slow, declining death,” he said. But the positive news is that in the same way, much of the state has been creeping out of it.
In fact, Texas has just hit a milestone in a possible recovery from the drought. In data released today by the U.S. Drought Monitor Map, no portion of the state is any longer in the worst stage of drought, “exceptional.” The last time there was no exceptional drought was back in March 2011, fourteen months ago. If you compare where things are now to the peak of the drought in October of last year (to the right), you’ll see a world of difference.
But there are still some discouraging signs. Continue Reading
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Humps aren’t just for camels anymore. No hands needed, either! Just don’t let the drinking tube fall out of your mouth.