Tag Archives: storms

What happened to our El Nino Winter?

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Our weather of late across the state has many of us asking what happened to the predictions of a cooler than average and wetter than average Winter for Texas due to the strong El Nino pattern.  And with Spring storm season right around the corner, it also has us wondering if this lackluster El Nino will have an impact on tornadoes and other forms of severe weather this coming Spring.  Our precipitation in December ended up ranking slightly above average across the state..especially for areas along and east of I-35.  For January, we ended up slightly below average, and so far this month, we’re trending below average in precipitation once again.  That’s not exactly what was projected back when we began talking about the onset of a strong El Nino pattern.  We expected the above average precipitation chances to continue on through the entire winter.  However, data for January…and now into the first of February…is hinting that may not happen.

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This past weekend, The National Weather Service office in Ft. Worth took a look at the data collected so far on this Winter’s strong El Nino pattern and compared it data on past strong El Nino events.  They took a look at analogs from these past events, compared it to the data we have leading up to this event, and concluded that we may be seeing a similar pattern to what we saw back in the winter of 1957-58.  As you can see on the plots below…we ended up drier than average across the northern half of the state and wetter than average across the southern half of the state. 

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The El Niño is now past its peak, and sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are cooling. However, the current sea surface temperature anomalies are still among the warmest on record, thus, strong El Niño conditions are still in place. But so far in 2016, there have been very few rainmaking systems from the Pacific that have impacted Texas, and precipitation totals for the year to date are below normal throughout North and Central Texas.

How unusual is this, particularly with strong El Niño conditions in place? Although El Niño winters tend to favor above normal precipitation, this is not always the case. The driest among the strong El Niño events (1957-1958) has been a remarkably good analog for 2015-2016:

-Very wet spring ends a multi-year drought (1957 and 2015)
-July and August are very dry (1957 and 2015)
-Wet autumn (1957 and 2015)
-Winter with near to below normal precipitation (1957-1958 and 2015-2016)

So naturally the next question is what impact this will have on our Spring rain and storm season?  The NWS office in Ft Worth goes on to say that Spring of 1958 was pretty wet for us…and it also featured below average numbers of tornadoes.  More on that further down the in the blog.  The images below from the Palmer Drought Index for the months of March, April and May of 1958 attest to the fact that we did transition into a wet spring that year.  And we have the current precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center which still supports the probability of above normal rainfall through Spring.  

  195803 195804 195805

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Does this mean we will begin to see more rainfall by early next month and potentially a wetter than average spring?  Maybe.  The Climate Prediction Center Outlook keeps us within a higher probability of rain during the months of March, April and May.  But we have to remember, El Nino is not the only factor which impacts the weather.  All we can say for sure at this point is yes, we will get rain this Spring…we always do…but we cannot discount the possibility that we may not get the rain we expect, much like what we’ve seen so far this winter.  

What about storms and tornadoes?  For that, we have to dig back into historical data for the spring of 1958 once again…as that appears to be the past El Nino event we are most aligned with currently.  On average during the months of March, April and May, Texas sees an average of 11, 29 and 43 tornadoes respectively. During the Spring of 1958, it was noted that we had fewer than average tornadoes reported across the state.  A total of 7 were reported in March, 12 in April and only 15 in May.  Now, keep in mind that current technology has allowed us to record tornado sightings with greater accuracy than we had back in 1958, so there could be a few missing…but that’s still a notably small number of reports.  

March April May

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The natural assumption based on the data above would be that Spring weather patterns coming out of an El Nino winter do a lower than average number of tornadoes.  This assumption is supported based on recent scientific research as well.  A paper published in Nature Geoscience in April of 2015 by climate scientists/researchers John Allen, Michael Tippett and Adam Sobel, draws the conclusion that there tends to be a decrease in the amount of severe storms producing tornadoes and hail during El Nino springs.  The reason for this is tied to the position of the subtropical jetstream typically identified with each type of pattern.  Typical El Nino patterns for the spring season tend to alter and weaken the surface winds that bring Gulf moisture up over our state.  This is more of a setup for just general rain showers than severe weather.  On the other hand, a typical La Nina pattern would tend to concentrate more hot and humid air over our region which is generally more favorable for storm formation.  Should we expect to see fewer tornadoes and severe weather this coming spring?  Since this is relatively new research, more time and study is needed to determine if there really is a clear-cut answer to that question.  

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In conclusion, the fact that we’ve been relatively dry this winter does not preclude a chance for transitioning into a wetter than average pattern this spring.  And while past research indicates a lower frequency of tornadoes and severe weather during El Nino springs, there is insufficient evidence that we definitely will see a less active Spring this year.

Links to source data:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/us-maps/1/201601?products[]=statewidepcpnrank

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/?n=climateoutlook

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/drought/historical-palmers/psi/195801-195805

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/wcm/permonth_by_state/May.png

http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/Texas/1958/May/map

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/el-ni%C3%B1o-and-la-ni%C3%B1a-affect-spring-tornadoes-and-hailstorms

 

 

 

Enhanced to Critical Fire Danger Risk Expands This Afternoon

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This afternoon will be the last relatively warm one for the next couple of days across the eastern half of Texas. High temperatures will peak in the mid 60s to mid 70s along and east of Highway 281 today. That includes North Texas, East Texas, Southeast Texas, Central Texas, and South-Central Texas. As usual folks in Deep South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley will top out in the upper 70s to right around 80 degrees. It’ll be a drastically different picture across the Panhandle where cold air advection will be in full force today. Y’all will struggle to make it out of the 30s this afternoon with a biting north wind. The South Plains, Rolling Plains, Permian Basin, and Northwest Texas will range from the mid 40s to upper 50s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see temperatures struggle to climb much by this afternoon as cold air advection continues. We do note that high winds are possible again today in the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains.

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The initial cold front this morning won’t result in cooler temperatures this afternoon for the eastern half of Texas. What it will do is bring in much drier air. Combined with gusty west winds and low humidity we’re looking at another day with critical fire danger. The highest risk for explosive wildfire growth will be across Southwest Texas and the Concho Valley. Very high to near-critical fire danger exists across the Permian Basin, South Texas, Central Texas, Hill Country, North Texas, and the Big Country. Compared to the past few days the risk for enhanced fire danger has spread further east. Local fire departments should be prepared for an increased risk of grass fires today. Any fire that develops could spread rapidly and require considerable resources to contain.

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Far West Texas, the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains, into the Permian Basin, South/Rolling Plains, and the Texas Panhandle are going to be cold tonight into Wednesday morning. Low temperatures will range from the upper 10s in Alpine and the northern Texas Panhandle into the mid and upper 20s across the Plains and Permian Basin. Freezing temperatures are anticipated across Northwest Texas, the Big Country, Concho Valley, western North Texas, and parts of the Hill Country. The remainder of North Texas, Northeast Texas, East Texas, the Brazos Valley, Central Texas, South-Central Texas, and the Hill Country will be in the mid to upper 30s tonight. Southeast Texas, the Coastal Plains, and South Texas will range from the upper 30s to the mid 40s. Finally we’ll round out with the upper 40s in the Rio Grande Valley for low temperatures tonight in the Rio Grande Valley.

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The storm system that brought high winds and blowing dust to West Texas is now causing a multitude of new problems to our north and east. A raging blizzard is impacting Nebraska and Iowa today. Meanwhile a severe weather episode will unfold this afternoon and tonight across Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. A squall line will move east with widespread damaging winds. Any sustained discrete storms that fire up ahead of that line could become tornadic this afternoon across northern Mississippi, southern Tennessee, and northwest Alabama. Back here in Texas we won’t be dealing with anything like that this week. Our weather looks dry through at least Thursday Night.

Your Overnight & Tuesday Forecast – Rain/Snow Mix for the Panhandle – Showers east of I-35

Lows Tonight

There’s actually quite a bit to talk about, so we’ll break the blog up into topics with the first item being snow/rain chances for the panhandles tonight and the chance for a few showers and storms along the cold front later tonight from around Dallas eastward.  Light rain is showing up across the central and eastern panhandle and far northwest Texas and is expected to continue over the next several hours before moving into western and southwestern Oklahoma. As the upper level low we’ve been talking about for the past couple of days begins to lift off to the northeast overnight, there is a chance for light wintry precipitation across the OK and northern Texas panhandles through early tomorrow morning as a secondary (Canadian) cold front arrives behind the current Pacific front.  Rain/snow amounts are expected to be very light across the northern panhandle tonight and into tomorrow with no significant travel impacts expected except for the far western corner of the OK Panhandle.  For the eastern half of the state, we expect to see a small line of showers develop along the leading edge of the Pacific front as it heads closer to the I-35 corridor and interacts with better moisture.   Best timing for the line to begin developing would be between 9pm and Midnight near the I-35 corridor, then continue east overnight into Tuesday morning as scattered showers. Storms that have recently developed just west of Wichita Falls will continue heading northeast this evening will continue heading northeast into Oklahoma with gusty winds and some small hail possible.  No severe weather is expected otherwise, but don’t be too surprised if you hear a clap or two of thunder before sunrise tomorrow.

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FWD Tonight

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Next topic for discussion will be the chance for dense fog tomorrow along the upper coast and inland counties across southeast Texas by tomorrow morning.  The NWS office in Houston/Galveston has issued a Dense Fog Advisory for the coastal counties between Matagorda Bay and Sabine in effect through 6am tomorrow.  This should clear out from west to east early tomorrow as the cold front arrives, but until then, it will be pretty soupy with decreasing visibilities for those right along the coast.  Check driving conditions before you leave for work or school tomorrow and allow extra time for your commute if it’s looking like pea soup outside when you leave.

HGX Dense Fog thru 6am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

As for the cold fronts…yes, there’s actually two fronts…a north/south oriented Pacific front which was the driving force behind the wall of dust which traversed west central Texas earlier this afternoon.  This front will continue its eastward progression overnight into tomorrow, but will not have too much of an impact on temperatures for us tonight.  Its greatest impact will be the gusty west winds it brings with it.  Gusts this afternoon across west Texas have reached greater than 50mph across a large swath of the region…with some locations exceeding 60mph.  Thankfully, these gusty winds will temper a bit overnight and not be quite that strong as the front passes through central Texas and into east Texas buy tomorrow morning.  It will be the Canadian front that arrives tomorrow, after the Pacific front, which will have the greatest impact on surface temps for the next couple of days.  Lows tonight will drop down into the mid to upper 20s across the western panhandle and portions of far west Texas.  For the eastern panhandle, eastern Trans Pecos and Permian Basin region, we’ll be looking at lows just above freezing overnight.  For north central down into central and southwest Texas, lows tonight will drop into the mid to the 40s.  Ahead of the front overnight, we’ll see some balmy 60 degree readings.

Lows Tonight

Highs tomorrow, chilly across the northern half of the state, but still quite warm across the southern half with highs once again reaching the 70s and even some low 80s across deep south Texas before the cooler and drier Canadian air has a chance to filter south.  After that, a surface high builds in across the state and remains in place for several days keeping us cool and a bit below seasonal averages through the rest of the work week.  Looks like we remain quite dry as well with our next chance for rain not showing up until the weekend.  More on that in our forecast blogs tomorrow!    

Highs Tuesday  

Slightly Warmer Overnight With More Pleasant Temps for Sunday

Lows Tonight

What month is this?  I keep asking myself that as I sit here typing with all the windows open and the sun shining through.  I’m sure we’ll eventually pay for all this nice weather, but in the meantime, the rest of this afternoon and through tomorrow looks to be quite nice.  Winds have picked up across west Texas this afternoon with gusts approaching 50mph for a few locations across the western and central panhandle. Wind Advisories are in effect for Briscoe, Castro, Hall, Parmer and Swisher counties in the panhandle until 6pm.  Additional Wind Advisories are in effect for the Davis/Apache Mountains, Reeves County and Upper Trans Pecos areas of west Texas until 6pm as well.  Elsewhere, just breezy with clear skies and plenty of sunshine.  Here’s a look at current temps as of 1:15pm.

Current Temps

Lows tonight will end up a few degrees warmer than last night with lows in the 30s and 40s across the panhandle, upper 40s to low 50s across west and north Texas, with mid 50s across east central Texas and some 60s sprinkled in along the coast.  Widespread fog will be an issue for coastal counties by tomorrow morning.  A cold front will begin to encroach on the upper panhandle tomorrow which will keep temps in the 50s for most of the day tomorrow, but elsewhere, another day with highs in the 70s and 80s!

Lows Tonight Our next weather-maker arrives on Monday with increasing chances for rain late Monday into Tuesday.  Even though this system will be strong, most of its energy will arrive during the nighttime hours for us which will significantly decrease the threat for strong storms.  The greatest threat for severe weather will be east of us across the lower to mid-Mississippi Valley region. Light snow will also be possible across the northern panhandle Monday through Monday night.  We will have more details out on the snow and rain chances tomorrow as additional data rolls in.

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Tornado Warning: Jasper, Newton, and Tyler Counties till 12:45 PM

Two tornado warnings have been issued. One for northeast Jasper county and northwest Newton county until 12:45 PM. Farrsville and Burkeville should move to shelter. The second warning is for northwest Tyler and northwest Jasper county until 12:45 PM. Chester, Colmesneil, and Rockland need to move to shelter. Both storms are moving northeast at 30-40 MPH.

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TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LAKE CHARLES LA
1202 PM CST THU JAN 21 2016

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN LAKE CHARLES HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
NORTHEASTERN JASPER COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS…
NORTHWESTERN NEWTON COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS…

* UNTIL 1245 PM CST

* AT 1202 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR JASPER…MOVING NORTHEAST AT 30 MPH.

HAZARD…TORNADO AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL.

SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.

IMPACT…FLYING DEBRIS WILL BE DANGEROUS TO THOSE CAUGHT WITHOUT
SHELTER. MOBILE HOMES WILL BE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
DAMAGE TO ROOFS…WINDOWS AND VEHICLES WILL OCCUR. TREE
DAMAGE IS LIKELY.

* THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL BE NEAR…
HARRISBURG AND JAMESTOWN AROUND 1215 PM CST.
FARRSVILLE AROUND 1220 PM CST.
BURKEVILLE AROUND 1235 PM CST.
MAYFLOWER AROUND 1240 PM CST.

OTHER LOCATIONS IMPACTED BY THIS TORNADIC THUNDERSTORM INCLUDE
WIERGATE AND HOLLY SPRINGS.

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TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LAKE CHARLES LA
1204 PM CST THU JAN 21 2016

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN LAKE CHARLES HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
NORTHWESTERN TYLER COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS…
NORTHWESTERN JASPER COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS…

* UNTIL 1245 PM CST

* AT 1204 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER CHESTER…MOVING NORTHEAST AT 35 MPH.

HAZARD…TORNADO AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL.

SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.

IMPACT…FLYING DEBRIS WILL BE DANGEROUS TO THOSE CAUGHT WITHOUT
SHELTER. MOBILE HOMES WILL BE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
DAMAGE TO ROOFS…WINDOWS AND VEHICLES WILL OCCUR. TREE
DAMAGE IS LIKELY.

* THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL BE NEAR…
COLMESNEIL AROUND 1225 PM CST.
ROCKLAND AROUND 1235 PM CST.

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