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The Great Drought of 2011


By Raquel


Texas has been in (is? one day and night of rain does not a drought end!) a state of drought for months now. This coupled with the highest temperatures Texans had seen and felt in years, predictably decimated my container garden. Once we hit August and September, all I could do was watch my plants wither and die. Some did survive, but most of them are gone. To give you an idea of how hot it has been, the Houston Chronicle came out with an article on October 15, 2011 that gave the following statistics:

“it was the driest summer of all time, besting the previous mark (set in 1917) by several inches.” From May to September Houston received 5.60 inches of rain in 2011, when normally it would receive 22.69 inches.

“Each month from April through September ended up one of the top 10 warmest months on record.”

“The average daily temperature for July, August and September were the warmest ever.” They were 97.4 F (36.3 C) for June, 102 F (38.9 C) for August, and 95.5 (35.3 C) for September.

“The record for consecutive 100 degree days was shattered…” There were 24 days of consecutive 100 F (37.8 C) days, from August 1-August 24, 2011.

“ was the record for most 100 degree days in a year (a normal year has 4, in 2011 we had 46 days!! when temperatures reached 100 F (37.8 C)).

And most stunning of all “With a high of 109 F (42.8 C) and a low of 81 F (27.2 C), August 27 was the all-time hottest day in city history. The high of 109 F is also the highest temperature ever recorded in August, and ties the city’s all time record high (set Sept 4th, 2000).”

I watered my plants, yes I did, but it was impossible to keep up with this kind of heat. As the summer wore on, many plants developed some time of fungi or insect infection…they looked like spools of white cotton on branches and stems…it was deadly.

When I read an article in National Geographic on climate change that happened in the Paleocene epoch (“World Without Ice”, October 2011) I did not expect to find this quote about our own current global warming trends: “Huber uses a climate model, developed bythe National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, that is one of the least sensitive to carbon dioxide. The results he gets are still infernal. In what he calls his ‘reasonable best guess at a bad scenario’ (his worst case is the ‘global-burn scenario’), regions were half the world’s population now lives become almost unbearable. In much of China, India, southern Europe and the United States, summer temperatures would average well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, night and day, year after year.” I got chills, and not the good kind. Before this summer I might have scoffed and said it sounded too drastic. After this summer, it seems like this might be the beginning of this scenario. Let’s pray to God not.

I had often wondered if we were not still in the grip of an Ice Age. This article also speaks of that idea, and it is possible to have a world that is much warmer, where temperartures in the Arctic would be a balmy 75 F.

You can imagine what the heat and drought did to the crops in Texas. I predict food prices will jump in Houston and beyond.

Anyway, I hope for the best, but I wonder if we (as humanity) have left it all for too long. The climate isn’t changing, it HAS changed, and maybe we just haven’t realized it fully yet.

On October 9, 2011, it finally poured for a day and a night in Houston:

It hasn’t rained since (though it has cooled down).

More blog posts by Raquel

Previous post: A very quick visit to the National Zoo, Washington, DC

Next post: Beautiful, ecological Costa Rica.



Hi Raquel ...
I admire you for continuing to be interested in rearing your plants, despite the amazing extremes of weather..

good luck with the next growing season. :o)

22 Oct, 2011


wow, and I heard on one of your radios shows that you had had massive fires as well. I hope next year will be better for you and your containers

22 Oct, 2011


Everything in nature is in a constant state of flux and there is nothing wrong with that or right for that matter. It is the way it is. Why should any one think that the environment that one knew for the first twenty five years of ones life was the best of all possible environments? Why should it be held static? Change can go so slow that life can genetically adapt to it or it can change so rapidly that there is no time for natural adaptation and thus extinction.
We are now realizing that while we humans can scrape up the earth a bit to feed ourselves and pile up some rocks to cover our heads, we are powerless against the tremendous forces which move continents and alter the axis upon which the earth spins.
But take heart! The humanity will survive deservedly or not. The human race will soon realize as well as a few do
now that instead of trying to change or not change the
environment we have now the beginnings of the capability
to internally adapt to those rapid changes which natural adaptation
would be too slow to do. That was the reason and final
purpose of the development of this huge intellect within
our heads. The human genome has been coded and these
blue prints and biological building blocks together with
biological engineering will allow the human race to keep
pace with environmental changes which would otherwise
render it extinct. We will have to be of one mind on this
and the universal consciousness required is in it's first stages of development. Right now we call it the Web.

23 Oct, 2011


hope you have better luck next year with your plants, theres me fed up with all the rain and you desperate for it.

23 Oct, 2011


We have been having ever widening extremes of temperature here, and at one point in August, the only place hotter in the world than our garden (48.8°c), according to the internet, appeared to be Texas! (Oh, and Djibouti - sorry, forgot Djibouti) The only positive point I could think of was the perfect peace and glory of watching the morning star fade and the sun come up over the valley as I watered our garden in the relative cool of 5.30a.m. We and our farming neighbours have lost a lot, too, and local environmentalists are very, very worried about the whole scenario. We are now waiting for what has been predicted as an even colder winter than the ever worsening ones of the past 4 years. I think we really have fouled our own nest.

23 Oct, 2011


Thanks TT! Yes, I believe in making a garden, for many it is both work but also deeply satisfying for me, and two, it occurred to me as the drought wears on that it might also be worth it to figure out which plants/flowers will grow better...I think the worst thing we can do for the environment is to stop gardening. =)

Thanks Steviethete, yes there were fires in Bastrop State Park, and it took about a week I believe for it to be controlled...many people lost their homes, the fire got to within an hour of west Houston, where I live. The fires started because it was just too dry and too hot for too long.

Yes, I think you're right Bilbobaggins (a fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I take it? =) ) wheat and corn prices will go up. In Houston we're seeing a lot of vegetables coming from Mexico, including I believe, corn. I am an eternal optimist so I think we can learn. We have to stop destroying the Earth, though you know, it isn't really about whether we destroy the Earth or not. The planet will survive. The question is: will we?

Gosh Eclectic now all the reading I've done on certain esoteric subjects will come in handy I actually understand what you're saying (I think). I agree climate is ever changing, it always has been, life is not static, of course. BUt yes, the question is, if the changes occur too drastically, will we have time to adapt enough to survive? Sometimes in Houston the temperature will drop - over the course of hours - from 90 F to about 40 F - the first time it happened I was stunned and suddenly realized just how fast climate change could be so that the mammoths froze while still eating in Siberia. Here I had time to change clothes. But if change happened fast enough, who knows? Not sure I agree about the universal cyborg consciousness thing, but I DO agree that there is a common ancestral consciousness (based on Jung's theories, we don't need a computer to access it) and that humanity will need to agree to stabilize ourselves and our world before it's too late.

23 Oct, 2011


Hi Clarice, yes indeed, we could use the rain! You could send it all here... =)

Hi Gattina, I couldn't believe Bologna could be that hot! When I quoted the article I did wonder where in southern Europe temperatures would go that high, and I couldn't think of I know! I'm not sure I could handle 48.8 C!!! I hope things get better over there, but it looks like climate is getting more extreme everywhere...I'm originally from El Salvador and it just rained for 10 days straight, they got more inches of rain during those ten days than what they got during Hurricane Mitch!! There was lots of flooding and deaths and people losing their one point there were five storm systems just hovering over Central America...and yet in Texas we never saw any of that rain, and the drought rolls on. =(

23 Oct, 2011


We're in the mountains, too, Raquel. At least we have a slight breeze to help us up here. The city (Bologna) is down in the plain and is absolutely airless and humid. Unbearable, and people die, too. That's why in the past people used to build houses with 2' thick stone walls and tiny windows. We stay inside on days like those, where the temperature is at least 10°c lower. The farmers who live up here think no-one should need air-conditioning, but down at sea-level it's a must. When we first came here, it seemed that the temperatures never got this high, and we have gradually acclimatised, but they definitely seem to be on the increase. We don't apologise for having a dark house any more - there's a reason. It's very odd - our neighbour comes from Calabria, much further south than here, and they don't get anywhere near the extremes of temperature that we do. We get forest fires, too, sometimes - luckily not very often at all, and certainly not on the scale that you have been experiencing, but scary nonetheless, and we have been fortunate not to have been directly involved. You get paranoid though, sniffing the air in the morning for the scent of smoke, and watching for flakes of ash.
I have heard of these incredibly rapid temperature drops as well. I could hardly believe it.
We sometimes see amazing electrical storms bouncing off the mountains around us, and can just hear the thunder, but no rain. 12 kilometers away, they are getting washed off the hillside, bridges are getting swept away and trees are coming down, and we get not a drop. When it does rain, though, it can do it really hard, and the cellars get flooded. We have just had our first real rainfall in months, in time to save some of the garden - mostly the deep-rooted plants and trees, and of course, like you, we water what we can. Luckily, the lawn seems to come through each time, but it's never going to be beautiful! We are coming to the conclusion that only container-grown plants and trees may be the sensible solution in future.

23 Oct, 2011


Sorry to hear you've had to endure such high temps. It must have been very uncomfortable. I'm glad it's cooled down now.

23 Oct, 2011


Sleeping is definitely difficult in summertime!

23 Oct, 2011


Thanks Hywel!

Thanks for the explanation, Gattina. I hear you about the dark houses. Honest people should just build with adobe (if feasible), my grandmother's house in El Salvador kept itself cool, but the adobe walls must have been at least 2 to 3 feet thick. You can still see them in some very old churches. It's a shame in Houston no one can open the shades because the windows do not block the sun out. I'm convinced that's why so many new townhouses are incredibly expensive, but can understand the upgrade.

20 Nov, 2011

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