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Report from the Texas Panhandle on climate

Posted by rcnaylor z7 Tex (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 28, 14 at 9:29

We have had the least rain in the last 3 years of any three year period on record (yes, including the Dust Bowl years). We just had the highest sustained winds for the last 4 days of any 4 day period on record. Lake Meredith is, on paper, one of the 10 biggest reservoirs in the state and has been below the level drinking water can be taken from it for over a year. In short, the climate here is hotter, drier and windier.

Just read yesterday California is in a drought over 100% of its area for the first time in its recorded history.

This climate change is hitting the whole of the SW United States in real and hard ways that look to only get worse.

Not many years ago I feared what the world would do collectively if we decided to do something about the reported climate change. I figured UN types would make the cure worse than the disease.

But, out here in the Panhandle, I am becoming convinced climate change, from whatever source, is real, and we (and apparently that means world wide to be effective) really need to start some of the cures we can hope will make it better.

I read studies about CO2 harvesting plans and equipment. I vote in favor of getting started now. From what I read we have the ability to start and the cost with technological improvement will only come down.

I think gardeners are kind of the canaries in the mine shaft on seeing and being affected by such changes. Maybe we need to be among those leading the collective decision making process. Or at least singing out the need for action.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Report from the Texas Panhandle on climate

I talked to an aunt in Dumas yesterday. She said the dirt has been blowing and it reminded her of the dust bowl. I've been thinking of the dust bowl myself lately, wondering how long it's going to be before there is nothing left here to hold the dirt in place.


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I saw one report that said this type of precipitation would become "the new normal".

If that is the case across the southwest United States, things are going to be very bad.


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I'm afraid that is going to be the new normal. I hope that Texas will begin building desalination and reverse osmosis plants so we can save the lake water and get water from more sources. If Houston can get water from the gulf, then Dallas won't have to let so much go down stream. If north and west Texas can get water from underground, then the lakes can fill back up. That would be good for wildlife and recreation. Eventually, we'll either have to figure out a way to divert the Mississippi or we'll all have to move east.


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I have one rather pathetic non-pessimistic thought about it that I cling to for sanity. We do have natural occurring cycles of drought, the 1930's then the one in the 1950's so my hope is its at least in part, a naturally occurring cycle is making this seem like its the "new normal". Of course the 1930's one was exacerbated & prolonged by plowing up the grasslands. These cycles are supposed to increase with global warming however so my optimism is not encouraged. Its pretty bad when that is all I can come up with in being hopeful.

I switched to native landscape & don't do any irrigating except when I am establishing a new species, then I water it until its established. I am seeing this trend become more popular & hope it catches on more. There is so much water waste going on in lawns, its frightening given the water shortage. Its a small thing to do but if more people do it, it will make a difference.

One thing that makes me crazy is to see inefficient sprinkler systems going on when it rains, sending mist up in the air that evaporates or having nozzles pointed toward a driveway or street. I believe there should be stricter regulation in home watering --- I'm just a little guy but little guys can play a little part in the scheme of things & add up to a whole lot of little guys.


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Richard, thank you for bring this to everyone's attention.

Here's a report from the Smithsonian Magazine to add to your report. It's a most interesting as well as alarming article and well worth reading.

I don't think we are going to be able to live, or to garden, in the same way that we have done in the past.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Reality of a Hotter World is Already Here ... Smithsonian


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Wow, Roselee, I hadn't even considered how the temps could do so much damage with just emotional impact.

I just wonder how much migration the water issues will cost the southwest? Boom towns of the mining rushes of the last century happened.


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I've stumbled onto Geoff Lawton's greening the desert. He began a food forest project in Jordan. It was nothing but desert. However, funding stopped, but he came back after 6 years and the forest was still there. The YouTube video talks about it 3:54.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greening the Desert


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Yes rcnaylor, The weather in the Panhandle has been hotter, drier and windier since 2011, I specifically remember that year as being the worst since we moved here in 1993. That was the year I decided to start doing away with my lawn, a small part at a time, and planting more native plants and landscaping. I will keep a small side yard with grass and trees, for the dogs.
I also replaced all of my sprinkler heads with Rainbird Rotary nozzles, they are a very low rising head with a heavier water amount and not as much wasted spray. When it gets much hotter, I will let the front lawn go with less water, until I have time to replace the lawn with high plains type landscaping. A step at a time, it isn't something you can do overnight, unless you just want to stop watering and let your lawn die. I might be ready for that step this summer.
I found the Smithsonian article very interesting. How true, but what bothers me more than the heat is the 92 degree weather we have had with the 35+ mph winds for the last week. That hot dry wind makes me very irritable! I hope it is a cycle that doesn't last too long. In the meantime I am doing what I can, when I can to change my water usage. I hope to see more and more people give up their lush green lawns for more native landscaping as well, TexasRanger10. I think it is a state of mind, everyone gasps when I mention desert landscaping up here, so I now refer to as native landscaping. I do see more and more dead lawns all over town, and I do sort of cringe at the sight, but that is the choice they made.
I don't think we can consider Lake Meredith a lake anymore, more of mud puddle.


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I think we need to find ways to start removing the problem we started by pouring greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.


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Y'all need to band together and stop that lil pickens from selling off aquifer water. Not that we don't need it, but it's just wrong for one person to think he owns all the underground water.


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Well, the good news is he sold most of the water rights to the City of Amarillo. They announced at the time we had secured a hundred year supply.

The problem with the Ogalla aquifer is it recharges VERY slowly naturally. On that issue, I would like us to find some way to increase the recharge rate (presuming we ever get back to having enough wet years to fill up surface ponds to be used for that purpose.)


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And, boy, was yesterday ever a text book example of the kind of climate change this thread is about.

We had near hurricane force winds yesterday. Around 60 mph + in the area and they howled from the north all day. I have lived here about 35 years and I have never seen a day like that. My car was sitting on the third floor of a parking garage and I had to turn on the wipers to get the dust that had settled on the windshield over the course of the day off the windshield to be able to drive. I went home and walked across a very green yard of grass, and a cloud of dust was coming up off the grass with every step.

The climate has changed here. We aren't talking about possibilities, or the future. It is here.

Now, is it part of some unknown cycle, is it likely to just swing back to what was? I don't know, but all our best scientist seem to think they know and they say we did it and its likely to stay until we undo it.

The point of this post was to voice one guy's opinion. It is here. It is bad. It looks like its only going to get worse and we really ought to start doing something.


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Richard, as you probably know there are ongoing international symposiums trying to reach some agreements on cutting back on greenhouse gasses plus capturing the gasses in the atmosphere, but it's a very slow going process. It's expensive in some cases plus people want to just keep doing things the same old ways. Many are in denial that anything needs to be done. According to sources that I trust climate change is a natural phenomenon that has occured off and on for millions of years, but the present warming cycle that would naturally take two or three hundred years giving some plants and animals time to adapt is predicted to take less than 50 yrs due to the unnatural release of greenhouse gasses. It's a big problem that's not going away soon.

The 'Greening of the Desert' video was very interesting. There's a lot that can be done to improve farming practices, but old ways die hard as the film shows.

Bamberger Ranch right here in Texas has been demonstrating ways to restore overgrazed lands and get rivers running again, but how many are doing it?

But whatever ... life goes on, but sometimes not too pleasantly in the short term.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bamberger Ranch article ...


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Good points Roselee. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Dirtball day 4-29-14


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Yesterday was a horrible day in the Panhandle, I agree. I was born and raised in Southern New Mexico, and yesterday would have been a typical dust storm 60 years ago and still is today. We had this every spring, from late February through April, they still do. They have been in a 20 year drought, I don't know if that is a cycle, or green house gases or global warming, it is just expected, it is a cycle. Elephant Butte lake was to them what Lake Meredith is/was to us, it is slowly recovering. Lubbock and surrounding areas, where my husband is from have had dust storms far worse than this every year, and have had for as long as any of us can remember. It is harsh. It is a cycle, it is the west and the high plains. I have seen it greener, it is a cycle.....


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On a local scale, Debra, I agree about Lubbock. I lived there from '80 to '83. It is different because it is surrounded by sandy soil that is put to agricultural use, primarily cotton. And, the soil is usually bare in the spring in preparation of planting so it can and does blow. Amarillo is surrounded far more by ranch land that is covered in grass and so we get bad dust storms only when it gets airborn from miles away. For it to get as bad (or nearly) as bad as Lubbock, it has to be very dry and very windy.

But, I agree with your observations about New Mexico being a drier spell for years and years. Same here. At least 10 years. For all of the last century we'd have maybe a 7 year dry cycle. This one just keeps going and going. Some scientist say they have found periods in this area's past of a hundred year period of below "average" precip. And, that is without mankind helping with greenhouse gasses.

All in all, I am hoping we find ways to reverse the causes of such bad spells, whatever the cause.


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Well, the climate always changes due to various factors such as sun activity, PDO and so on.

With cold phase of PDO, yeah expect more drought conditions. We got spoiled during warm phase of PDO (think more and long lasting El Nino) that brought more rainfall to Texas. I'm sure it will eventually come but the question is when? Who knows but it doesn't look good at the moment. It sucks. It is multi-cecades process both ways.

Ironically, having extra CO2 helps plants tolerate less rainfall better so there's a plus...

I personally do not think CO2 or greenhouse gases are the main driver of global change (no warming trend for the past 17 or 18 years anyway). I've been reading everything about it. CO2's influence on global change (aka global warming) is so weak, it's time to dismiss it as a big factor. Pointless to worry and waste billions over it. Time to shift that much money to elsewhere that is much more practical solutions. Get rid of wind farms and solar farms. They are too costly and not very efficient. Not even very friendly to animals and environmental (millions of birds and bats are killed and too much lands are wasted for them to produce so little compared to others).

Look at Israel. They did something and did pretty well. Desalination plants might help but it is very costly depending on who you pick to build. Israel seems to have found ways to make it cheaper.

The usage of waste water will help as well solely for watering plants. My neighborhood does that. Whatever we use in the house down the drain will be reused to water parks, medians, etc. I believe a town nearby does the same for the golf courses. I'm working there and asked about where they get water from and it came from all the houses in that town to be used for the courses.

Some "experts" say that we should be seeing El Nino by summer/fall but I'm not holding my breath over how long it would last into fall-spring. I often noticed that we get nice amount of rainfall whenever we have El Nino event during those months (summers don't seem to make any difference).


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Hmm... Smithsonian article.... not so fond of it. That style of writing smells more of propaganda than anything else that I've read everything.

Sorry but the actual facts are that green energies are so expensive that is forcing poor people to shut down A/C. Not very practical solutions.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report - Yuck. Pure politics for money grab, not actual science. No credibility there.

Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is what I prefer. Actual science, not politics.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)


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I grew up in Dumas, and I don't ever remember a dirt storm like the one I saw pictures of last week. I told all of the friends and family who complain about us not coming "home" often enough that I was never coming back if they kept posting pics of Dustmageddon.


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I remember dust/sand storms like this back in the 60's & 70's growing up in El Paso. It happened every spring.


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A few years ago I lived in El Paso and there was a horrible dust storm that you couldn't see beyond two feet in front of you. I'm grateful not to live in the desert :)

I was thinking as individual Gardeners we can try to replicate what is shown in greening the desert video. If we can feed ourselves and give the abundance to family/friends it would lessen the demand for large scale farms.


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melvalena, I also grew up in that area, in Alamogordo, NM just north of El Paso. The dust storms were a daily event in the spring. I remember my Mom always telling us to shut the windows and doors as a dust storm was coming. It was just an expected thing in March and April. We always went by the adage, March, in like a Lion, out like a Lamb.
The very frightening thing no one has mentioned in this post is the wildfires. A dust storm is just that! Dust and wind... March 19th, 2006 was a day I will never forget, as we had fires all around, we lost 11 people that day, including the owner of the Borger Greenhouse and all of the nursery. I will take a dust storm any day, in New Mexico the fires where in the mountains, here the fires are anywhere, fortunately this year, aside from the wind and dust we haven't had any serious fires in our area. Not sure what that has to do with the discussion, but I think worth mentioning. Debra


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High 90's today in Lubbock with the wind picking up. Supposed to blow for the next 4 days.


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Blowing dust forecast again given for this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon. Fire weather warnings, also. We desperately need rain.


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Yes, we had a record high of 99 yesterday in Borger, this is starting to remind me of 2011 when we had such horrible 100 degree weather for over 30 days! And wind just keeps blowing... Rain would be soooo refreshing right now. It is so dusty I would love to just hose down everything in sight, but, it would just be back again tomorrow, and a waste of water.


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Debra, I have the same feelings as you about the dust...... Our water sources are rapidly being used up. I don't blame the farmers for this though. When I have more time, I will expand on that topic if it appears anyone wants to hear it.


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Debra, I went to junior high in Alamogordo when my Dad was stationed at Holloman AFB. It was not unusual to wake up in the morning to find fine sand on your face and pillow from a dust storm, even with the windows, such as they were, closed. Also they taught kids in school and on the base what to do if caught out in a sandstorm; curl up on the ground with arms around your face until it passed. It's a different kind of life in dry windy conditions like that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why subjects like climate change are so controversial ...


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RE: Report from the Texas Panhandle on climate

It seems to me virtually all the scientific study of past climate conditions indicate our fast increases in world wide temperatures simply have never happened (at least in millions of years).

Those who claim what we are doing to the atmosphere isn't responsible seem to have much less in the way of answers about what is causing the rise if we aren't. To me, the good news is that we probably know the answer, and therefore know how to start undoing what is causing the warming.

Old adage, the sooner you start something, the sooner you get finished. This new climate we have needs to be taken back to what it was before we started pumping so many gasses into the atmosphere.

Gardeners are usually the first to appreciate natural cycles, so, going back to what had been working regarding the balance of gasses in the atmosphere would seem to be prudent even if we find it is not the only cause. It would be like unpolluting a lake, even if it wasn't causing some big problem, would cleaning it up be bad?


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I think you are right. It is never to late to start doing what we can. What can a average small town person who stays at home, loves to garden, drives less that 50 miles most week, etc.. do for a start?
Debra


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I'm very impressed with the respect shown in this thread... And the number of participants that aren't frequent posters. It looks like we're all on the same side!


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rcnaylor, I remember a lot of days like your photo when we lived in Plainview from 1974-1980. But then, it was the farmers and the plowing in the spring for the crops they planted. I grew up in Pampa and while the wind blew, we didn't have as much dust as Plainview and Lubbock because it was mostly wheat farming, cattle, and oil wells. Very little spring plowing.

What I also remember from the Plainview days was that the farmers burned off their stubble in the fall and the town was covered with a layer of smoke then. We had whole house evaporative a/c and I hated to turn it on when on those dusty and smoky days.

I remember driving to Lubbock once when the dirt was blowing so bad I could barely see 10 feet in front of me. Really scary.

My mom, who has never really paid attention to water conservation, was here for the last few days, and I showed her all my native plants, mulching, and how I seldom water. She collected seeds and marked plants she wants me to pot up for her. Today, when she got off the plane in Amarillo, she went straight to a few nurseries and bought some native plants so she can start changing her landscape.

I think the more we practice what we preach, the more it will influence others. And I totally agree that we need to do something about greenhouse gasses, and not just industry. We need to make some energy concessions easier and cheaper for ordinary people.

It is great to say we need to quit driving, or quit driving as much. But how many people live within walking distance to work, shopping, or a bus stop? Sometimes I feel so powerless sometimes because I drive to town nearly every day, I keep the temperature cool enough to keep from sweating in the house, and I wash my clothes after wearing one time, at least in summer.

I'd like to have solar panels, solar water heater, and a hybrid car, but I just can't afford them.


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I agree lynnmariep86. Maybe it is because we are in a garden forum and it doesn't have anything to do with politics right now. It is about water, dirt, heat and wildfires. Maybe some politicians need to come see how our landscape looks. I am more concerned about the water, rain and fires at the moment. We, in the panhandle are under extreme fire danger, as I am sure a large part of Texas is right now. I am also concerned about the incredible growth and new construction that Amarillo is having, which is great, but without Lake Meredith, I hope they have enough water to keep up with the growth and building. I drove down South Soncy today in the wind, with all of the construction, it was a dusty mess.
I think we are all on the same side, just not quite sure what to do.
Debra


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On May 11 a drought induced wildfire at Lake Meredith burned 150 structures, most of them homes (maybe more when the full count is in) and resulted in one death.

We haven't had a "normal" year here rainfall wise in a decade. Some, like this one, are historically dry.

Climate change is here. Why? I won't guarantee.

The question is, are we going to do what we can do about it? Or just be passive victims?


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rcnaylor,
Yes, the first was a devastating one, we are just sick about it and have many friends who lost their homes, and this was only 10 miles from where I live. I cannot imagine anything more horrible, we too have had a wildfire come within a mile of our house.
I told you last week that I agreed with you, and asked what I could do. I don't mean to sound ignorant or uninformed, but, really what can I do to help?


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While it seems untrue, this country does what a lot of us decide is what we want. "We" have to make up our minds. Then we have to let what we want be known. To friends, neighbors, pollsters, the internet and most importantly, the folks we elect.

It seems to me, right now "we" have not really made up our minds. "We" have therefore sent the message to those making decisions we are conflicted and/or willing to ignore the problem and hard decisions because we find it easier.

I don't think it is a question of individually saving energy (thought that is never bad), we currently have plenty of energy with the new advances in drilling and producing oil and gas.

The problem is what we are doing with the release of all the greenhouse gasses and what we are not doing to recapture 150 year's worth of industrial revolution releases.

We have a voice. We need to let those making decisions hear them.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I think we really are some of the canaries in the mindshaft out here on getting the first whiff of real change that is having real effects. Sing out. That is what we can do. Before we figuratively, and some of us literally, keel over.

That is kind of why I started posting about it. If each of us convince two other persons to a) decide and b) sing out, that is the way all meaningful change starts. And, this needs to start. Hopefully it is starting many places so it can happen as soon as possible.


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When y'all get tired of the panhandle/lubbock, y'all can come hang out in the middle of my bamboo grove here in dfw. It's cooler, earth quake proof, sucks up co2 like no other, plus, on the perimeter, I grow plums, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, figs, pomegranates, and there's plenty of squirrel we can fry up when the **** hits the fan. Amazing how it all survived in the worst drought ever. Hey, you guys want to live out in the desert, suit yerself. I'll be here. I seen that gawdforsaken place y'all live at, nearly ever' year on my way to Coloradee fer vacation. Always cram the van with 15 people in a 7-seater to be energy efficient. I'm doing my part, come on down. If y'all read yer bible, it sez, He will provide -> y'all just gotta believe, and put an end to all them heathren ways yer a frettin' with that existential angst of yer'n.. simple as that, as it appears like a lot of y'all done slipped off the wagen and are lookin' fer Gaia to save ya when Jesus is the answer. Pitiful, but yer still all welc'me, I don't judge and love to share my lil paradise out back. Until then, M, nothin' but the best, to all.


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M, sounds like the deal of the century to me! ... :-)


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RE: Report from the Texas Panhandle on climate

Mackel, I'm in FW and would love to see your bamboo. I've always been warned it's invasive but I waaaaaant soooome!


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I made my email available on this website, just today, pc.

Bamboo is straightforward and simple to understand; in it's mystique, it is mythologized into fearsome legend.

But like with any fabled dragon, we possess the upper-hand, with a far more powerful, human mind.

I am it's master, and it is my grasshopper. ;). M


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