May 31, 2022 - News

Austin's record-hot May

Animated gif of a thermometer in the shape of a cactus rising to 120+ degrees, and then back down.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The typical number of 100-degree days annually between 2000 and 2018 could come close to doubling by 2036.It wasn't quite fry-an-egg-on-the-car-hood hot this May, but it definitely felt like opening-the-oven-door hot.

  • To add to the melt-y feeling, Central Texas continues to be parched, with rainfall year-to-date trailing the normal accumulation by a third, per National Weather Service data.

Why it matters: The hot, dry weather means the amount of water available to wash dishes, bathe and drink — as well as for use in factories and power plants — is very slowly declining.

Between the lines: Austin announced Stage 1 Watering Restrictions — the mildest limits — will go into effect June 6.

  • The total hours for watering via automatic irrigation systems will be cut from 15 to 13 (now midnight-8am and 7pm-midnight).
  • Kevin Critendon, assistant director of Environmental Planning and Development Services for Austin, said the city sees the restrictions "as an opportunity, and obligation, to inform citizens about the current situation with drought and lake volumes."

By the numbers: Overall, the high temperature was, on average, about 7.5 degrees hotter than normal — 94.2 instead of 86.8, through May 30.

What they're saying: The record heat "is not a fluke," National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Quigley told Axios.

  • Temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have "far-reaching consequences for how the atmosphere evolves over our heads in North America," Quigley said.
  • The current La Niña ocean pattern, as it's known, typically leads to above-normal temperatures — and below-normal precipitation — in Central Texas.

Flashback: The state climatologist reported last year that Central Texas will get hotter and drier in coming decades as the global climate changes.

  • The typical number of 100-degree days annually between 2000 and 2018 could come close to doubling by 2036.

What's next: The La Niña pattern is forecast to continue at least through early summer.

  • And the U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecasts "persistent drought" for Central Texas through the end of August.
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