Visualizing Drought and Heat in Texas

Has it always been this hot and dry in Texas? Wildfires, drought, and record heat don’t seem to have stopped folks from moving to the state, but you’d have to forgive them if they arrived in August and turned right around.

But the historical record offers some context. First, this year has been, without a doubt, the worst. So it could be that there’s nowhere to go but up (we won’t know until next spring, though). Look at this graph of rainfall over the last seventy years in Texas from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Data from NOAA

Average rainfall in Texas, 1930-2011

What’s clear is that 2011 has been the worst year ever for rainfall in Texas. But what’s also clear is that huge variations in rainfall isn’t anything new. Some years, like 2004, are abnormally wet ones, with nearly forty inches of rain, while others, like 1956, are abnormally dry.

Now look at average temperatures in Texas over the last seventy years:

Data by NOAA

Average Annual Temperatures in Texas, 1930-2011

Again, extremes are nothing new. Some years are really hot, others are cold. But the discouraging part here is that in the last ten years, you see many temperatures higher than normal.


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