Texas School Board

The Texas State Board of Education is looking a bit saner after Republican primaries yesterday.

Thomas Ratliff upset State Board of Education member Don McLeroy in a Republican primary nail-biter… Appointed board chairman in 2007, McLeroy has been the poster-child for the board’s conservative bloc with his affable tone but strident ideology. … His defeat is substantial blow to the conservatives.

on the other hand

Dallas Republican Geraldine Miller, a member of the board’s moderate faction, lost to teacher George Clayton in that primary, the Associated Press announced around 12:30 p.m. There is no Democrat contending for this seat, either.
Miller has been a fixture on the board since 1984 and the surge by Clayton was not expected.

Although Clayton reassuring;y says “As an educator, I see the question of curriculum and textbook content as a simple task; both should be agenda free,” this late unexpected surge does not bode well, as it smacks of the creationist M.O. And he is also quoted as saying “”It’s seems to me you can’t be taught the one [evolution] without the other [creationism],” Clayton said. “It’s an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism.”

The Texas Observer has much more.

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Hope for Texas: Moderate to Large El Nino

Speaking of El Nino, the forecast is definitely for a moderate event at least this winter. Some groups are calling for a large event.

This is great news for us here in south-central Texas, and where drought conditions are currently extreme. It’s been six weeks of remarkably hot and dry weather even by local standards. It amazes me that so many plants are still looking healthy. Soil moisture is so close to zero as not to make a difference.

Fortunately, El Nino (negative SOI) correlates positively with precipitation. Unfortunately, there’s several months ahead before we collect on this promise.

I wonder, though, what a strong El Nino event might do for public perceptions of climate change. We might be due for some strange episodes. I have some pretty clear memories of the great Montreal ice storm in the 1998 El Nino.

We’ve been trained to say that “no individual event can be attributed directly to climate change”, and talk about loaded dice, etc. The next really big El Nino we will put us in uncharted territory, though. I wonder if the campaign to get El Nino language into the climate debate territory isn’t partly just an effort to deflect the attention to climate change that whatever weirdness we see in the next year might bring.

Even so, speaking as a Texan, (and I may live to regret this) if you’ve got some El Nino handy, bring it on down to my place, honey! It can’t be much worse than what we’ve got already.

107 F

I was at a remarkable citywide organizational meeting of various environmental groups today. The “Al Gore curse” didn’t apply, in that it did not snow.

107 F. Nearly 42 C. That’s the official high at Austin TX today. Unquestionably the hottest day of my life, and it’s only June. Not only a local daily record, but only one degree shy of the local monthly record. More to the point we’ve been over 100 most days for two weeks now, and I expect we are in contention for hottest June.

Now, since Climate Depot linked to my mention of a severe cold anomaly in Canada, they will also take note of me noting the extreme heat in Texas this week, right?

Update: See also here and here.

June 24, 2009 was the hottest day ever recorded in New Orleans.

Update 6/29: Today’s 100° day in Houston ties the longest string of 100-plus degree days in recorded history at seven (1902).

At this moment it is 104° F in Austin. The lowest high temperature since June 9 is 97° F (on the 9th and 12th) and we have failed to hit 100° F on only one of the 17 days starting June 13. Thus today we surpassed the previous record of 15 100-degree days in June.