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Agriculture can expect dry conditions well into the future


Even as drought conditions persist through much of Texas, historic periods of dry weather are predicted to beat the Dust Bowl period of the 1950s some 50 years from now, according to an expert.

Dr. Gerald North, distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography at Texas A&M University, told a group of agriculture industry representatives at the 2009 Ag Forum to be mindful of potential dry weather in the future.

According to modeling data averages, which includes historical precipitation, temperature and other calculations, historic drought of never-seen proportions could be experienced in 2060 and 20 years thereafter.

"For agriculture (farmers and ranchers), we need to keep an eye on this and do planning accordingly," he said. "It's going to get hotter."

But it's an educated guess as to which part of the state will receive the most moisture in the future, North said.

"Is it that East (Texas) will be wetter and West (Texas) dryer? I think yes," he said.

However, North said one colleague thinks North Texas will be wetter and the south region dryer.

One thing is for certain, according to North, last year was the 10th warmest on record for the U.S.

Temperature trends for the past 50 years indicate a "little more warming towards the poles," he said. "We could very well experience an ice-free Arctic for the first time in a one- to two-month period during the summer," North said. "(Ice) would then return during the fall."

It's not clear if carbon emissions are the source of temperature warming across the U.S., North said, but since the industrial revolution there has been significant use of fossil fuels and those emissions could be a contributing factor.

"We are pumping it (carbon dioxide) in at such a rate our natural system can't absorb it," he said. "It would take about 200 years to level out."

The Texas Ag Forum is an association of agricultural leaders and representatives from across the Texas food-and-fiber system. It was founded more than 20 years ago to provide a forum for open and public discussion of problems and emerging issues in agriculture. It is a stakeholder-driven program in partnership with Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

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