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Could Texas' mega-drought last until 2020?
A climatologist sparks debate by predicting that the Lone Star State's historic drought could persist for another decade
Sailboats in a Texas Marina sit on land where they once floated in water: More than 95 percent of the state is experiencing drought and experts say it could last a decade.
Sailboats in a Texas Marina sit on land where they once floated in water: More than 95 percent of the state is experiencing drought and experts say it could last a decade.
David Woo/Dallas Morning News/Corbis
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limatologist John Nielsen-Gammon is predicting that Texas' devastating drought could last until 2020. The dangerously dry conditions have already caused $5.2 billion in damage to crops and livestock, along with a host of "out-of-control" wildfires. More than 95 percent of the state is experiencing either "severe" or "exceptional" drought, making this what many see as Texas' worst drought since a seven-year ordeal that ended in 1957. When will Texas see rain again?

It might really take a decade: "We've had drought in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009, though none as deep and widespread as this year's," says Brantley Hargrove at the Dallas Observer. The unusually warm Atlantic combined with a cooling pattern in the Pacific has created a perfect storm of drought conditions. And sadly, this unfortunate syncing of weather patterns is unlikely to change for many, many years, so "don't count on significant rain anytime soon." 
"A decade-long drought? Yeah, maybe so, state climatologist says"

The state will get occasional relief: Even if "a multi-year drought were to occur, says Paul Yeager at The Huffington Post, Texas will get "short intervals with normal rainfall." Weather experts — particularly Nielsen-Gammon — blame the drought on the La Nina weather system, which only changes weather patterns for months at a time. And a single slow-moving hurricane or tropical storm we can't predict might "provide short-term drought relief."
"Predictions of 10-Year Texas drought have validity"

And remember, droughts are nothing new: La Nina is "notoriously hard" to forecast more than a year into the future, says Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University, as quoted by The New York Times.  For all we know, "next summer might be wet." But "the funny thing" about drought monitoring in the southern U.S. is that since it started in earnest in the late 1990s, there has always been at least one dry spell somewhere every year. So let's keep things in perspective.
"Some climatologists worry that Texas' mega-drought could endure for years"

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