Summer heat waves are typical in Texas, but experts say climate change is affecting their severity – and according to a recent report by the state climatologist, the annual surface temperature by 2036 is expected to be 3 degrees warmer than the average for the last half of the 20th century.
But right now, as a statewide heatwave puts strains on our infrastructure, when will we get a break? Victor Murphy – a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and the climate services program manager for its Southern Region Headquarters, based in Fort Worth – shared his outlook on Texas’ weather:
Will we be getting a break from the heat anytime soon?
Well, that depends on how you define “soon,” Murphy said. Temperatures have cooled off a little bit from record-breaking heat over the weekend – 109 in Abilene and 105 in Austin and San Antonio – and should cool another degree or two today.
“And that’s probably about where we’re a stay at for the next week or so. Basically, temperatures hovering around 100 degrees or so, or maybe 101 or so, across the major cities,” he said.
What kind of weather events are causing this heat wave?
A dome of high pressure has been sitting over Texas, Murphy said, bringing cloudless skies and a lot of sinking motion in the atmosphere, which helps heats things up.
“That dome of high pressure sort of shifted eastward yesterday and today, so, we’ll see the slight little cool off – but then it shifts back westward over us over the weekend, so we heat back up a little bit,” he said. “At the end of the day, probably a degree or two worth of cooling, today, yesterday through tomorrow or so, and then a couple of degrees worth of warming back up again later in the week and over the weekend.”
What is the impact of this oppressive heat on the current drought conditions across the state?
The two go hand-in-hand, Murphy said: During the summertime, one of the only ways for Texas and much of the southern U.S. to cool off is through rainfall, which the state hasn’t seen so far this month.
“June should be one of the wetter months of the year for a lot of Texas, at least the first couple of weeks of June. Now, obviously, that hasn’t materialized, unfortunately,” he said. “The next 10 days look very dry also. So, we don’t see much improvement in that regard. And unfortunately … that’s what we saw in 2011. You know, drought begets heat. Heat begets drought. And you sort of get back into this sort of a feedback cycle, if you will.”
What are the biggest concerns for Texans?
No. 1 is power usage and power supply, Murphy said, noting that Texas set an all-time record for usage on Sunday. Power demand surpassed 75 gigawatts, breaking a record set in 2019.
“I would look for those values as summer wears on,” he said. “I would look for that to be broken again. First thing would be making sure we have adequate power.”
“Second thing would be the impacts on people’s pocketbooks or wallets. Power prices have increased about 40 percent or so in the last six, seven months. It’s been pretty dramatic. And, you know, with the above-normal temperatures, the need for cooling, I think consumers’ wallets are gonna take big hit this summer.”