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Could We Still Be in Drought For 15 More Years?

By Jeff Jamison, CBS11 News
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A lot of buzz last week about remarks that Texas State Climatologist John Nielson-Gammon made about the possibility of Texas still being in drought for another 5 to 15 years.  The full news release from Texas A&M is here.

Along with the growing La Nina, there is another possible contributor to what could end up being a multi-year drought.

From a New York Times article on this topic:

But Nielsen-Gammon says there’s another factor at play — unusually warm surface waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, which also factored into the historic 1950s drought.

He believes those warm waters are a product of a long-term climate pattern, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), now in a “warm” phase that could last for another 15 years.

“Unfortunately, if you go back to that record [of the 1950s], it’s pretty similar to what’s going on right now,” he said. “That’s the only time in the past 100 years when [the ocean conditions] had a similar configuration to how they are today.

The Atlantic Mulitdecadal Oscillation or AMO is the measurement of longer term sea surface temperatures of the Northern Atlantic.  The AMO is either in a cool phase or a warm phase.  We’ve been in a warm phase since the mid 90s.  Here’s a graph of the AMO going back several decades…notice that during the 1950s we were also in a significant warm phase.

amo fig1 Could We Still Be in Drought For 15 More Years?

This doesn’t guarantee that our current drought will go on for another 10 years, but the trending and oceanic influences are not encouraging.  September ended up being very dry over the state and October is off to a dry start as well.  At least West Texas is poised to get some much needed rainfall over the weekend as Larry Mowry points out.

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