How will global warming impact Texas climate?

With hotter weather comes greater frequency of extreme weather

SAN ANTONIO – A new major climate report from an international group of scientists holds a grim conclusion — the global temperature is warming fast and the effects can be catastrophic.

The findings were part of a 3,500-page assessment released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of more than 230 scientists from more than 60 countries.

It was the IPCC’s first report since 2014. Technology has progressed since then, allowing for more precise climate modeling and more confidence in the forecast.

The report shows that temperatures will be 1.5-degrees Celsius than pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels by 2040. That’s faster than previously estimated and faster than the rate that temperatures have risen in the last century.

The result is an increased likelihood of extreme weather events across the world, including in Texas.

In an interview with KSAT, Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said that, in some cases, the effects of global warming could be even more extreme in Texas.

Meteorologist Sarah Spivey explains the IPCC's 6th Climate Assessment

For instance, temperatures will heat up faster in Texas than the global average, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a meteorology and climatology professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

“Land heats up faster than the oceans do,” he said.

In Texas, that means average temperatures could increase by up to four degrees Farenheit by 2040. The heat will be felt most in the summer.

“Every couple of degrees of warming basically doubles the number of 100-degree days we experience,” he said. “So that’s doubled already, it’s going to double again and unfortunately probably keep doubling for a while.”

Another big concern for Texans as temperatures heat up is the frequency of extreme rainfall and flooding.

That’s evident by past natural disasters, like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the Wimberley flood of 2015.

Nielsen-Gammon’s research shows that extreme rainfall events in Texas have increased by up to 15% over the past century.

“We’ve seen that impact lots of places in Texas already, and the places that haven’t seen an impact from that have been lucky so far, but it’ll be coming for them too,” he said.

The impacts global warming will have throughout the United States (KSAT)

Action is required both on a personal level and a governmental level to begin cutting down on carbon emissions, and every bit helps, he said.

“People like to talk about a deadlines for action because that’s a motivating factor, but there really is no deadline for climate change,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Every little bit that we do is reducing the worst possible impacts, and the more we do along those lines, the sooner, the better off we are no matter when that happens.”

As part of his job, Nielsen-Gammon will present findings to policymakers in Texas. What he tries to impress upon them is to consider the long-term impacts of global warming.

“Things that we do now (to combat climate change) are going to help us somewhat, but it’s mainly going to have an impact on our children and grandchildren,” he said.

One avenue could be government-backed programs that incentivize companies to reduce pollution, waste and energy usage.

“We’ve got companies that are acting to benefit their shareholders over a six-month period, the incentives really aren’t set up (to benefit the environment),” he said.

WATCH: KSAT Explains: The science and impact of climate change


About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.