As Austin’s temperatures warm, water supply strained and wildfire risk grows

Weather Blog

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s average summertime temperature has warmed by 3.9°F since 1970, according to Climate Central, an organization that employs meteorologists and climate scientists to study how our weather is changing.

Austin's average summertime temperature is rising as the climate warms (Climate Central)
Austin’s average summertime temperature is rising as the climate warms (Climate Central)

Even if rainfall patterns remain consistent, hotter temperatures lead to more evaporation. This means more water from the Highland Lakes is lost to the air, leading to lower lake levels. That can lead to tighter water restrictions and less water availability for the nearly 2 million who depend on the lake in Central Texas.

Increased evaporation also applies to our soil and vegetation. That means even if annual rainfall holds steady, a hotter climate leads to plants and trees that are drier and more brittle, increasing the risk of wildfires.

Austin's temperatures warming
Austin’s temperatures have already warmed about three degrees. How much we warm in the future is dependent upon emissions. (Climate Central)

Future warming will be highly dependent upon global greenhouse gas emissions. High emissions scenarios suggest another 7°F of warming in Austin within 80 years. The COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins in Scotland next week.

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