Texas 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all my friends in Texas!  This is the first of our state level forecasts, we’re going to dive a little deeper into some of what I shared in my 2050 forecast for the Southern Great Plains.  And I’m going to experiment a little bit with a different format, hope to try and look at some maps and stuff with you.

The first thing we’re going to talk about is projected heat increases across the state.  Then we’ll talk about water issues, including sea level rise.

For the heat increases, let’s look at this map from the National Climate Assessment.  Now, interpreting this map isn’t totally straightforward.  Let’s talk this through.  There are two maps here.  One of them is for a scenario where we lower emissions, and one of them is for a scenario where we keep doing what we’ve been doing. 

When we’re look at what to expect in 2050, we can basically take the low-emissions scenario map here and look at the conservative end of the estimates.  And what I’m going to say here is important, so listen up.  Please hear me.  If we lower emissions, the challenges we prepare for today, when we look at the 2050 forecast, those could be about the challenges we face in 2100.  The work we do today could be work that lasts for several generations.  We could be building a real future, a good future.  But if we don’t lower emissions, you can see that a whole additional level of adaptation would be needed for 2100.

So let’s check out some highlights on these maps.  You can see some protected areas, those lighter areas on the map aren’t places where there’s no change in the forecast, just less change.  The colors on the map show how many more days over 100 you’re going to get in any particular area.  So take the summer you’ve got, and add more days on top of that.

You can see in central texas there’s a nice cooler spot, where it gets hillier there, and up in those topographically interesting areas by Marfa and Alpine.  In the panhandle, too, the conditions aren’t as extreme for changes in heat.  And in the gulf coast, you’ve got some protection from the extreme heat increases, but you do have other problems, which we will look at in a moment.

In the regional forecast I talked a little about the water problems, and I want to look at the Ogallala with you up in the panhandle.  You can see that it’s not looking good.  Most of the area where that aquifer is being tapped, it’s getting tapped out.  So if you’re up there, you need to start looking aggressively at water management, because there is also a decrease in your future precipitation predicted. 

I wanted to point out one technological water solution going on in Texas, being really successfully used by our friends in El Paso, and that is Desalination.  I’m gonna pop this map up, you can see where there are currently desalination plants in Texas.  This is a high-energy way to get water, there’s brackish water under the ground that can be drawn up for desalination.  It’s high energy, high cost, but it’s cheaper than moving water in from outside the region.  And I mean, you need to be thinking about what pulling that water out of the ground is going to do, are you going to have settling of the ground, or earthquakes, there are potential consequences.  But I thought this map might interest you, you might want to consider if you have local access to this type of water resource.  You’ll notice these desalination plants do not currently exist in the panhandle.

Moving towards the gulf, we’re going to use this sea level rise tool to look at what 3 feet of sea level rise, which is not out of the picture for 2050, and what that will do to the Texas gulf coast.  I’m gonna just fly along with you here, and talk about what’s going on.  You can use this tool yourself to get a fuller picture of your area.

From the big picture view, you’re gonna see we’re going to lose a lot of coastline.  I hate looking at this stuff, I have an attachment to New Orleans and this stuff makes me so depressed.  But let’s check it out, let’s pull this band-aid off.  We’re going to look at the big coastline, we’re going to look at Houston and at Galveston, we’re going to look over by Collegeport, and we’re going to look down by Corpus Christi. 

Okay, so let’s get outta this tool and go over what we learned.  We’ve got some inhabited and infrastructure heavy areas, like Galveston, that we know are low lying and we know we need to deal with.  We’ve got some areas that are less inhabited but do have some crucial infrastructure, some of those areas are vulnerable to sea level rise and we need to devote some resources to clean up.  And we’ve got some areas that are pretty inhabited and near the beach, get the cool breeze, and they’re not as vulnerable to sea level rise.  So we pulled off the bandaid, and it was a little scary, some places looking a little like they might need some attention, and some places that look pretty okay. 

Wrapping everything up, we look at projected heat increases, water availability, and sea level rise for Texas.  I’m sure you noticed that some places have a pretty rough outlook in the state, and that other places have one that looks pretty okay.  Knowledge is power, and I hope this helps you and your community make decisions about what you want to do, how you want to build for and invest in the future.

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.