September heat breaks Austin records

Ellis Prater-Burgess

This September was the hottest in Austin history, with average high temperatures around 10 degrees warmer than normal, said Troy Kimmel, a meteorologist and senior lecturer in the Department of Geography and the Environment.

This heat wave followed the second-hottest Austin summer on record, which started mild and wet but ended in drought, said Kris Wilson, School of Journalism associate professor. Wilson said the heat is the result of a high pressure weather system above Texas.

“In our summertime, high pressure builds over us,” Wilson said. “The heat continues to build, and nothing can penetrate it, so no storms can develop.” 

Austin is experiencing a particularly bad combination of heat and dryness, Wilson said. Around September 2011, Austin experienced a series of fires made worse by the severe drought at the time, Wilson said. 

“My personal concern is: Are we going to see a repeat of those fires?” Wilson said. “(The problem is) not just that it’s uncomfortable to us, it’s that it is very, very difficult on ecosystems to go this long without moisture.”

Although fall officially began on Sept. 23, Wilson said the heat of the summer is extending longer than normal. He said climate change plays a role in this.

“What (climate change) is doing is changing patterns,” Wilson said. “It’s very concerning.” 

Kimmel said climate change often causes drought, which can result in higher temperatures. As the ground dries out, it starts heating more efficiently, Kimmel said.

“(This month) was pretty spectacular,” Kimmel said. “In order to break the back of this summer heat, we’ve got to get a cold front in, but we’ve also got to soak this ground … I don’t see that much rain.”

Avery McKitrick, co-director of the Campus Environmental Center, said people often misunderstand the impact of climate change on the weather.

“It’s hot because it’s September in Austin, but it’s hotter than normal because of climate change,” environmental science junior McKitrick said. “It’s really concerning that we’re just a few degrees above average because it’s only going to get worse.”

The center is the University’s oldest and largest environmental organization according their website, and it is working to increase sustainability and environmental justice on campus, McKitrick said.

“Climate change is one of the only issues that has a timer,” McKitrick said. “It’s going to affect every single person on the planet, and it’s going to affect some groups way more than others.”