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Temperature and Precipitation Extremes in Central Texas

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A collaboration with the Cities of Austin and Killeen, Texas and A Nurtured World

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Austin and Killeen, Texas have experienced many temperature and precipitation extremes in the last decade. As climate change accelerates, we can expect more days of extreme heat, fewer overnight freezes, and more frequent periods of drought than there have been historically. Many of the long-term impacts can be avoided if emissions are reduced, creating a more positive future for residents of Central Texas.

Most people experience climate through the extremes. Crops are affected when temperatures drop below freezing, and we change our behavior when the day’s high is over 100° F. Thus, we assessed recent and future change in the extremes for the communities of Fort Hood/Killeen and Austin, Texas. We provide information on extreme heat, low temperatures, extended drought, and wildfire.

austin map avg temp

Annual average temperature across Central Texas for the historical period (1961-1990) and three future time periods (2010-29, 2040-69, and 2070-99), based on three different global climate models and the high emissions RCP 8.5 scenario.

Summary of Climate Trends for Central Texas

  • The region has warmed by 2°F since the early 1900s.
  • Frost free season is 10 days longer.
  • Extreme precipitation has become heavier and more frequent.
  • Wildfire and the length of wildfire season have increased.
  • Continued warming of 6-11°F by 2100 is expected.
  • Reducing emissions could limit warming to 3-7°F.
  • Very few freezing nights are expected by 2050.
  • Overnight temperature over 80°F could become common.
  • Days over 100°F expected to become 2-5 times more common by mid-century.
  • More year-to-year variation in precipitation is expected.
  • Frequency of days with very low precipitation are expected to increase slightly by 2050.
  • Soils are expected to become drier from heat and evaporation, even if precipitation increases.
  • The area affected by wildfire is expected to increase through mid-century.
  • Many of the most severe impacts can be avoided by reducing emissions.

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