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FAQ: Climate change

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 Q: What's your position on climate change?  Is it happening or not?  Is it real or man-made?

A: The State of Texas does not have an official overarching position regarding climate change. However, the Department of Atmospheric Sciences faculty have unanimously endorsed a statement regarding climate change. The statement will be updated as needed as we continue to learn more about the climate system.

My own scientific conclusions are that the climate is constantly changing, that there are and always have been multiple causes of climate change, and that fossil fuel burning and other activities are the primary cause of the global-scale increase in temperature over the past several decades.  The extent to which we should or should not take action to stop emissions of certain gases or attempt to proactively cause the climate to equilibrate or cool are political questions far beyond the realm of my expertise or that of this office.  However, we can take advantage of knowledge about climate change to better plan for future climatic conditions.

(signed) John W. Nielsen-Gammon, June 2012

FAQ: Tornadoes in Texas

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Q: How many tornadoes touch down in Texas each year?

A: On average, 155 tornadoes touch down in Texas a year, more than any other state in the U.S.

FAQ: Warmest region

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Q: Where is the warmest region of Texas located?

A: Southwest Texas is the warmest region of the state on average. For example, Laredo is known for its consistently high temperatures.  In the wintertime, the warmest temperatures are found closer to the coast, near Brownsville, helping to make the Lower Valley a popular destination for those wishing to avoid winter weather.

FAQ: Cloud seeding

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Q: Is "cloud seeding" a viable option for manufacturing rain in Texas?

A: Cloud seeding is presently carried out across a large portion of Texas.  These weather modification activities are overseen by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.  Conventional cloud seeding is based on sound physical principles, but there is some dispute about how much, or even whether, cloud seeding has any effect.  Cloud seeding is not an effective drought prevention tool, though, because it requires the presence of clouds that already contain substantial amounts of liquid water.  For more information, see the Texas Weather Modification Association website and a statement by the American Meteorological Society.

FAQ: La Niña and El Niño

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Q: What's the latest on El Niño and La Niña?

A: The Climate Prediction Center has an excellent web page section devoted to these phenomena, which collectively go by the name ENSO.   They provide ENSO forecasts and declare the beginning and end of an ENSO episode.