Energy & Environment

Texas Could Look Increasingly Like West Texas, Climate Study Says

Scientists say arid conditions are expanding into the nation’s lusher, eastern regions

Arid climate conditions, like those found in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, are gradually moving east, researchers say.

West Texas has moved from Abilene to Fort Worth.

That is, if you ask climate scientists.

New research from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said the “100th Meridian” – the line that is typically used to divide America’s dry, desert west from its more lush, eastern regions – has moved slightly east because of climate change. Scientists expect that trend to continue.

Climate scientist Richard Seager found that since around 1980, rising temperatures in the northern U.S. and decreasing rainfall in the south have pushed drier conditions about 140 miles east (from about Abilene to Fort Worth.)

As that continues, Seager said farmers might have to grow less corn and more wheat, or use more land for grazing over farming, as they do in drier regions now.

“You would also expect that if productivity of land is going down, you would end up with fewer, but larger, farms,” he said.

The study didn’t find any sweeping changes in how land is used yet, and Seager said farmers could adapt with irrigation. Still, Texas is expected to look more like West Texas over the course of just decades, something that could also lead to water shortages in already-booming Texas cities.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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