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Wild Facts About the Texas Drought

texas drought map
(Image credit: US Drought Monitor)

The weather in Texas this year has been downright hellish.

An epic drought, scorching heat and deadly wildfires have plagued the state for months and continue to singe the land.

An active hurricane season brought hope that rain would fall on the dusty soil and provide some relief, but so far, this year's tropical cyclone season has been of no help. Instead of dumping rain, Tropical Storm Lee, which hit the Gulf Coast last weekend, brought only winds that made the wildfires worse.

And the outlook isn't good: With La Niña's forecasted return this fall, dry weather threatens to plague the state into the winter. [Related: The World's Weirdest Weather]

This "slow-motion disaster," as some climate experts have called it, has produced a litany of records and startling statistics.

Records broken:

  • Texas' current drought is the most severe one-year drought on record, according to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M University.
  • Texas had the warmest summer for any state going back to 1895, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The state's average temperature was 86.8 degrees Fahrenheit (30.4 degrees Celsius). Its neighbors Oklahoma and Louisiana had the second- and fourth-warmest summers of any state, respectively.
  • August 2011 was the hottest month in Texas history, according to the NCDC. The average temperature was 88.1 F (31.2 C), breaking the previous record of 87.1 F (30.6 C) set last month.
  • In San Angelo, Texas, the record for warmest month was set three times in three months from June to August, according to the National Weather Service.
  • June to August was the driest summer on record, with only 2.44 inches of precipitation.

The amount of rain needed to provide some drought relief. (Image credit: Climate Prediction Center.)

Putting it in perspective:

  • January through August 2011 has seen only 7.47 inches (6.2 centimeters) of precipitation, also a new record to that stretch.
  • The most severe Texas drought overall is still the 1950-1957 drought. During the most intense year of that drought, 1956, Texas set its all-time record for lowest 12-month precipitation, 13.69 inches (34.8 cm) ending in September.
  • Levels of extreme (81 percent) and exceptional (14 percent) drought in Texas totaled 95 percent of the state's area, according to the Drought Monitor.

Wildfire woes:

  • The hot and dry weather has created dangerous fire conditions. Nearly 18,612 wildfires have burned 3.5 million acres of Texas so far this year, according to the Texas Forest Service. That's about the size of Connecticut.
  • Wildfires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes statewide.
  • Six of the 10 largest wildfires in Texas history occurred in 2011.
  • Texas has been fighting wildfires since Nov. 15, 2010.
  • The damages from this year's wildfires are estimated at more that $5 billion, according to news reports.
Live Science Staff
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