15-year forecast: urban flooding, scorching heat, intense droughts

Ryan Farrell, Research Communications and Public Relations

By 2036, Texas will experience record-breaking heat, as much as 50 percent more flooding, and severe droughts, according to a new study conducted by the Texas state climatologist and Texas A&M University researchers — and recent data shows that Texans are already feeling the damaging effects.

The researchers analyzed decades of Texas weather records to project trends out to 2036, the year of Texas’ bicentennial. They found that Texas will experience twice as many 100-degree days, 30-50 percent more urban flooding, and more intense droughts 15 years from now if present climate trends continue.

“Texas’ weather is changing, and it’s doing so in a way that will make it harder to live here and more expensive to recover from increasingly disruptive events,” said State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, regents professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M.

“That means preparation and resilience are more important than ever. Texas’ long-term prosperity will depend on how well we prepare for these increasingly damaging natural disasters.”

The report, Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036: The 2021 Update, was released today and has major implications for statewide planning and funding of infrastructure, water and flood control, energy, and transportation.

Nielsen-Gammon led the team of Texas A&M researchers that analyzed decades of Texas weather records to project trends out to 2036, the year of Texas’ bicentennial. They found that Texas will experience twice as many 100-degree days, 30-50 percent more urban flooding, and more intense droughts 15 years from now if present climate trends continue.

“Over the past several decades, we’ve seen triple-digit days basically double in number in all regions of the state,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “These past trends are relevant because they are indicators of future changes. Climate models have been fairly accurate in simulating temperature trends in Texas since 1950, and they suggest that the trend since 1975 will continue for the next few decades at least.”

The study was conducted independently by Nielsen-Gammon and Texas A&M researchers, and was funded by Texas 2036, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization.

In the Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036, released March 5, 2020, Nielsen-Gammon and Texas A&M researchers analyze what Texas’ climate and weather conditions will be like when the state turns 200 in 2036. Using observed and analyzed historical meteorological and climate data, the report describes future extreme weather risks facing the state. Nielsen-Gammon is the lead author of the 2020 report and the 2021 Update. Texas A&M students Sara Holman, Austin Buley, and Savannah Jorgensen contributed to the update.

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