Drought: Cyclic or foreshadowing?

May 15, 2014

Cracked earth on the Texas High Plains
Cracked earth on the Texas High Plains
Credit southwestfarmpress.com

Increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation may not be cyclic.  Dr. B.A. “Bob” Stewart recently released an analysis of data from 1895-2013 for the Texas High Plains.  He found the area is getting warmer and drier, and the recent drought is not a temporary state according to a study by Dr. Stewart for WTAMU.

Stewart found during the period studied temperatures were lower during wet years, and higher during dry years.  Two significant dry periods were the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s and 1950-1956 which was even drier that the 30s.  Temperatures increased dramatically during those times, but dropped afterward, and precipitation increased.  However, since 1980, temperatures have increased, and are higher today that either of those two dry periods.  That fact suggests decreased precipitation is likely caused by increasing temperatures.

Dr. Stewart says that trend will require changes in the area’s agriculture.

Stewart has been the director of Dryland Agriculture Institute at West Texas A&M University for the past 20 years.  Prior to that, he was the director of the USDA Conservation and Production Laboratory at Bushland.

Dr. Stewart’s analysis and data can be found here.