Drought Messes with Texas. Texas Football, That Is.

By Jonathan Marshall

Texas football

At one game last fall, the temperature on the Astroturf at a Texas high school football game was recorded at 185 degrees. (Photo courtesy of TXsportscast.com.)

Last April, Gov. Rick Perry called on “Texans of all faiths and traditions” to pray for rain to overcome the state’s “exceptional drought.” All summer and fall those prayers went unanswered.

Ten months later, heavy rains are now finally falling across Texas. But not before the state’s withering drought—the worst in history—sparked thousands of wildfires, killed hundreds of millions of trees, and caused the biggest decline in beef cow numbers ever recorded. Even with recent rains, many communities still face the imminent prospect of running out of water altogether.

The state also faces a risk of rolling blackouts this year as many power plants are running out of essential cooling water. The state’s grid operator warns that water shortages could put at risk 3,000 megawatts of power capacity if the drought continues, and plans for new fossil-fueled plants may be sidelined if new water supplies aren’t found.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the drought has put at risk the state’s most cherished tradition—Friday-night football.

“All across Texas, in heat-battered towns where water towers hang like giant IVs, high schools are struggling with fields where grass has shriveled, dirt has hardened and artificial turf has become too hot to handle,” the Los Angeles Times reported last fall.

On one field of astroturf near Dallas, temperatures measured 185 degrees. That’s more than hot enough to fry an egg.

Temperatures ran high enough to kill student athletes and at least one Texas coach last summer.

Perhaps the threat to football will finally convince some climate skeptics to rethink their conviction global warming is a hoax.

Matthew Van Dusen, a blogger sponsored by General Electric, warned that the parched football fields in Texas are just “a preview of things to come” throughout the southwest, where temperatures are projected to exceed 90 degrees F more than 150 days a year by the latter half of this century.

The effects of global warming “will have devastating effects on the ecology and economies of these areas and make watching and playing football outdoors almost unbearable,” he said.

Or as NASA’s chief climate scientist, James Hanson, remarked, “If we stay on with business as usual, the southern U.S. will become almost uninhabitable.”

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