Books closed? 94 days of 100s

State expert: ‘Drought may last up to 15 years’
Reporter Editor

Surely it’s over now.

The earth-cracking, crop-destroying grass-blighting spring and summer of 2011 ought to be in the record books now, with the coming of October and continuing cool fronts finally bringing some temperature relief to the Rockdale area.

If that’s the case, it’s time to total up the unprecedented number of 100-degree days. The last—if it was the last—100 degree reading was recorded Thursday on the U. S. Weather Service thermometer at KRXT FM.

It was 104.

That was the 94th day of 100- degree- plus temperature in 2011. The old record of 63, set in 2009, was broken way back in the second week of August.

It hasn’t been just the heat, of course. Rockdale, and Texas, are in what’s officially the worst one-year drought ever recorded for the state.

Just over one-third an inch of rain has fallen in the past four months, and less than 10 inches have fallen for the year.

Unidentified, and wet, flying objects were reported downtown Rockdale Thursday. But the brief and spotty shower never got to KRXT’s rain gauge at the western city limits. 
Reporter/MIke Brown Unidentified, and wet, flying objects were reported downtown Rockdale Thursday. But the brief and spotty shower never got to KRXT’s rain gauge at the western city limits. Reporter/MIke Brown And the Texas State Climatologist had this bit of cheery news during the week. Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A& M said the current drought conditions could last another five to 15 years.

105-PLUS—The summer of 2011 is one of those rare statistical events which are even more impressive once you dig behind the numbers.

For instance, while the 27 consecutive days of 100 or greater from late July to mid-August are staggering, the streak could have been even longer.

Had the temperature not “cooled” to 99 (actually 98.5) on July 16, the streak would have been 44 and included every one of July’s 31 days.

In 42 of those 94 days of 100- plus the mercury climbed above 105.

In fact, there was a 13- day streak in early August where the temperature climbed above 105 every afternoon.

Then it got hotter, if that’s possible. Beginning Aug. 18, Rockdale’s highs were 108, 108, 107, 106, 106,107, a chilly 98, 105, 111, 112, 109 and 107.

The mea n temperat ure in August, all hours, day and night, was 91 degrees.

OTHER SIDE—The other side of the coin was the virtually complete absence of any precipitation.

Through the end of September, Rockdale still hasn’t officially recorded 10 inches of rain for the year.

The total is holding at 9.98 inches. A brief downpour in the downtown area Thursday never made it to the KRXT gauge near the western city limits.

That’s less than half the 22.68 inches which fell in the first nine months of 2010, a drought year.

Since June 1, the rainfall total is only .38-inch. The (below average) total for June through September of 2010 was 9.79 inches.

DIR E PR EDICTION—Dr. Nielsen-Gammon said on Thursday the current dry conditions in Texas could last until 2020 and beyond.

The professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A& M said it appears a new “La Niña” system is forming in the Central Pacific Ocean and that might force Texas into sustained drought conditions comparable to the 1950s.

La Niña is the name given by climatologists to colder than usual temperatures in the Central Pacific over a period of several years.

When that happens, there are wetter than usual conditions in the Pacific northwest and drier than usual conditions in Texas and throughout the southwest.

Dr. Nielsen-Gammon said September conditions in Texas give credence to his prediction.

“What’s happened is a dry state (Texas) has become even drier,” he said.

He said the best chance for rainfall in October, and to weaken the overall drought, would be for a tropical system to come through the Gulf of Mexico, something which never happened in September.

“Hurricane season is just about over for us,” he said. “There’s still hope for significant rain through the end of October, while tropical moisture is still hanging around, but that’s all it is—a hope.”

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