Climate Change is Making Mythical Creatures in Texas

Growing up in Austin, Texas looked different in the 90s than it does today. I don’t just mean in the way that every generation says that– “Back in my day…”

I mean it in the more ominous, cracking earth, beating sun, crumpling oak trees sort of way; the climate change sort of way. 

I can remember the thunderstorms we used to have here. Every fall and spring and into the summer, these great thunderstorms would roll in, flooding the ravine below our house, sending salamanders from who knows where into the drains of the pool. After the rainstorms in the spring, our yard would be full of snakes and tarantulas; the pond out front would be a song of toads. 

I haven’t seen a salamander, tarantula, or snake at that house since the mid-90s. The ravine has remained dry, collecting trash from who knows where. Even the toads are few and far between, and the pond is quiet. 

Though there are many, many effects of climate change in Texas, the one that I have seen the most plainly and painfully is its impact on wildlife. 

Texas is one of the largest contributors to global warming– in the world. This is largely because of its reliance on fossil fuels across industries.1 

This has a direct, localized impact. We’ve seen the hottest-ever recorded summer months here in Austin for the past two years2, and according to Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences, the average annual surface temperature in Texas is expected to rise by 1.8 degrees in the next 12 years, from where it was in the 90s.3 This intense heat means something of a paradox for Texas: less frequent rainfall, but more severe flooding when it does rain.4 This pattern of precipitation plus hotter temperatures means drier and less fertile soil.4 And of course, all of this impacts our wildlife. 

Generally speaking, increased temperatures decrease the reproductive success of animals.5 It disrupts their natural ecosystems, either killing them or forcing them to migrate north, as many species have already begun to do.6

Those tarantulas I used to see lining our driveway– they’re dying out. The heat causes them more diseases, confusion around hibernation, and dehydration.7 

Those shining salamanders almost feel like a mythical creature in Texas now; like I dreamed them up as a child. The population of many salamanders across Texas has declined, even since the 90s.8 In fact, 40 percent of the world’s population of amphibians are now threatened.8 

Even as I write this, I look outside to a balmy, spring day. It’s 88 degrees; a squirrel lies flat on a branch, hot already. It’s February 22nd.  


  1. Metzger, Luke, et. al. “Climate Change and Texas”. Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. 2023. 
  2. Villalpando, Roberto. “Austin’s unreal summer weather explained in 10 numbers”. Austin American-Statesman. 2022. 
  3. Nielsen-Gammon, John, et al. “Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036”. Texas A&M University: Office of the State Climatologist. 2021. 
  4. “Drought and Climate Change”. Centers for Climate Change and Energy Solutions. 2024.
  5. “Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystems”. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Webpage accessed February 22, 2024.  
  6. Muluneh, Melese Genete. “Impact of climate change on biodiversity and food security: a global perspective—a review article”. Agriculture & Food Security. 2021.  
  7. Swanson, Conrad. “Climate change affecting Colorado tarantula population”. The Associated Press. 2021. 
  8. Goard, Alyssa. “Why Texas salamanders may be an example of the growing threat of extinction worldwide”. KXAN. 2019.