When it Rains, it Pours

After years of severe drought, Texas is swamped. Could climate change be to blame?

May 27, 2015

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported last Thursday that Texas was finally free of  extreme drought. After five debilitating dry years, it was great news. But what the weekend then brought—torrential rainfall and flash flooding that left at least 17 dead and numerous people missing in Texas and Oklahoma—seemed like a very cruel joke (one that still isn’t over). By yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott had declared disasters in 37 counties.

El Niño is partially to blame for the soaking, because its warm waters drive rain in the southern United States. But this oscillation between extreme dry and extreme rainfall is also indicative of climate change. As Eric Holthaus of Slate reports, “A steadily escalating whipsaw between drought and flood is one of the most confident predictions of an atmosphere with enhanced evaporation rates—meaning, global warming.”

Photo: U.S. Drought Monitor

Illustrated by USGS/NOAA

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