Monday, August 8, 2011

The Texas Heat and Drought

If you live in the American Southwest or north into the Midwestern states and you spend much time outdoors then you know these have been difficult days.  Ranchers, farmers, construction workers, road maintenance crews and many others have been forced to work in horrific heat.  Texas in particular has been hit by record breaking high temperatures and prolonged drought.  Earlier this summer parts of Texas were torched by fires that turned the skies into something akin to a volcanic eruption.  New Mexico and Arizona have not been spared by the fires either and vast parts of the Southwest are in what is termed “extreme drought.”  Forget trying to build a campfire or even go woods roaming or hiking in most places. Yesterday I needed to check a piece of land but even at 6:00 PM the temperature was 102° degrees Fahrenheit. Three hours before the temps hovered around 110° and even by 11:00 at night the air still felt like a blast furnace.  The heat index at mid-afternoon was near 120 degrees.

Earlier in the day a life-long buddy of mine and I sat in the shade cast by a small porch and like most outdoor people we spoke of the weather. The news that El NiƱa seems to be reemerging is taken with a sort of resignation: As if the acknowledgment that the times are changing seems inevitable.

On the drive out to the ranch I listened to a radio program about the Texas drought and ongoing heat. The narrator interviewed meteorologists and climatologists from several universities or agencies as well as a biologist from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and a scientist from an organization that studies the effects that heat and drought can have on health.  A city manager from a North Texas municipality was also interviewed.

The meteorologist and the climatologist, like most scientists, were cautious in their conclusions. The city manager, like most politicians, was cautious in his assessments. But the health scientist did not hold back. She warned that the effects of diminished aquifers on water quality, especially as it relates to increasing the concentration of toxic contaminates that might have seeped into the aquifers over time, could translate into health emergencies. She also echoed the concern of others about reduced flow in rivers and streams and its relationship too elevated toxin/water ratios. 

If you’d care to hear the complete program yourself then here is the website:

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