Flash Drought expands into North & Central Texas; Severe Drought in East Texas
- Thursday, 20 August 2015 09:47
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Flash drought conditions expanded in both severity and scope over the past week. The newly released drought monitor now places much of Northeast Texas, East Texas, Southeast Texas, North Texas, Central Texas, and the Brazos Valley back in official drought conditions. Severe drought is underway across Northeast Texas southwest into the Brazos Valley. The record rains in May combined with a very dry July has resulted in an overgrowth of surface fuels that are now dormant. Abundant dormant fuel is gasoline to wildfire production and we have seen a marked increase in grass fire calls. Over 100 counties in Texas are under burn bans and more counties are being added daily.
From the National Drought Mitigation Center: Short term dryness has caused expansion of drought across much of Texas and eastern Oklahoma. Warmer-than-normal temperatures have exasperated the situation. In Oklahoma, it was reported that soil moisture levels were approaching lows that we had not seen since August 2012. Drought was expanded in the southeast corner of Oklahoma and introduced in the northern part. Elsewhere, temperatures were 2-4 degrees above normal this past week in much of Texas. Drought conditions were expanded in much of east central Texas while a portion of southern Texas continued its drought free status.
The one bit of good news is this data is from Tuesday. We’ve seen a little bit of rain since that point. Flash flooding is ongoing around Galveston where severe drought conditions exist. I do not expect that to be the case this time next week as several inches of rain has fallen. We anticipate El Nino to bring a fairly wet winter with those impacts starting up later in fall.
Good Rain Chances Tonight; Near Record Lows Possible Tonight for parts of TX!
- Wednesday, 19 August 2015 06:08
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The southeastern Texas Panhandle and Northwest Texas are seeing rain and a few thunderstorms this morning. At the time of this writing a few storms are also underway around Amarillo and near Lubbock. Activity is moving southeast in association with an outflow boundary and cold front. Gusty winds are possible with this activity.
Rain/Storm Chances Today
Rain/Storm Chances Tonight
Rain/Storm chances on Thursday
Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected today across the Permian Basin, Concho Valley, Northwest Texas, North Texas, Northeast Texas, East Texas, Southeast Texas, and Central Texas. More isolated activity is possible in South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and West Texas later today. Rain and storm chances will continue tonight with the rainless streak at D/FW, Waco, and most of East Texas expected to come to an end. On Thursday scattered rain and storms will continue to push south and eventually clear most of Texas, except the Rio Grande Valley, Thursday Night. Gusty winds and small hail will be possible with the stronger activity.
While fairly normal during the winter months one would not expect to see a 30-35 degree temperature difference in August across Texas. Folks south of the cold front, roughly along and south of Interstate 20, will see high temperatures in the 90s to low 100s today. Folks in the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas will remain in the upper 60s to 70s today. Our neighbors in Oklahoma may not get out of the 60s today. For Thursday temperatures will top out in the low to upper 80s north of Interstate 10. Low to mid 90s can be expected south of Interstate 10 into the Rio Grande Valley – a good 5 to 10 degrees cooler than today.
I’ve saved the best part of this forecast for last. Now I’ll go ahead and say for those in South Texas, Southeast Texas, and Deep South Texas you’re going to be warm and humid tonight since the front will not have reached you yet. However if you’re north of the front tonight is going to be a treat. Amarillo should get down to 52 degrees tonight with dewpoints in the 40s. Mid to upper 50s are expected tonight across West Texas and Northwest Texas. Low to mid 60s will dominate the Permian Basin, Concho Valley, Big Country, North, and NOrtheast Texas. Upper 60s to lower 70s can be expected across Central and East Texas into the Big Country as well. Remember this is mid August in Texas folks. The fact we’re talking about low temperatures in the 50s is fairly rare. Wichita Falls will be close to setting a record low temperature tonight. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few upper 40s tonight in the Texas Panhandle – incredible for August.
El Niño: What it means for Texas this Winter
- Sunday, 16 August 2015 19:58
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Sea Surface Temperatures on August 15, 2015.
The Climate Prediction Center released their monthly El Nino discussion this past week. They continue to forecast a greater than 90 percent chance of an El Nino this winter. They’re also now expecting El Nino to stick around into the spring of 2016. I’ll spare you the technical details of how these forecasts are created. Observations from the Pacific Ocean continue to indicate a significant and strengthening El Nino. You may have seen news articles this past week indicating the upcoming El Nino could be ‘godzilla’ or record-breaking. In all honesty that is something to look back on rather than try to forecast. El Nino should be quite significant this winter regardless of if its a record-breaking event or comes in second place.
We saw a very wet May and June across Texas but July and August (so far) have been the exact opposite. The good news is we should see rain in areas that need it most this week as an unseasonably strong jet stream dips south. El Nino is not expected to cause substantial temperature or precipitation impacts this summer or early fall. However we should see increasing impacts in the late fall and winter months. Along with the current El Nino the Atlantic remains devoid of tropical systems while the Pacific is having a very active year.
Just like everything else in weather each El Nino event can be unique. Historically, El Nino events typically bring increased precipitation and average to below average temperatures. There are exceptions and a select few past events have been anomalies in the sense that we didn’t see above average precip. Temperatures will not always be cold. As we’ve all experienced this summer we can have above-average temperatures. Likewise it’s not going to be wet all winter.
Precipitation anomalies during past El NIno Winters. Attribution: NOAA
Temperature anomalies during past El NIno Winters. Attribution: NOAA
Lets talk about the winter weather aspect of El Nino for Texas. Usually Texas will see at least one winter weather event annually regardless of the ENSO phase. Adequate moisture for precipitation needs to be present along with an air mass cold enough to support freezing rain, sleet, or snow. Being so far south makes that difficult. Usually if we’re cold enough for winter weather the atmosphere is too dry to support precipitation.On the other hand if we have enough moisture to produce winter weather it’s usually too warm. Because of our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico south winds usually bring warmer air in quickly. It takes the right amount of moisture, a cold airmass, and upper level energy at the perfect point to produce a winter storm. During El Nino winters the SSJ (Subtropical jet) tends to be more active across the southern United States. This same phenomena can bring above-average precipitation to California. Likewise we usually see cold fronts every few days. The winter of 2009-2010 was an El NIno year and that helped produce the Christmas Eve Blizzard on December 24, 2009 across North Texas. Other El Nino winters have been relatively quiet in the winter weather department.Every El Nino is unique so nothing is written in stone.
So in summary – I do believe we could be in for an interesting winter in Texas. Winter weather in the north side of a low with severe weather on the east/southeast side of the low is something to watch for with low pressure systems in the winter. I’m not a meteorologist nor am I a climatologist. Most seasonal outlooks involve a lot of looking at past events, finding an analog, and using that information to create a long-term forecast. Mother Nature will do what it wants regardless of what we think. I don’t put a ton of faith in these long-term outlooks that try and get overly specific. Past El Nino events have produced interesting weather in Texas during the winter months. Likewise a few select strong El Ninos have actually been less impactful than weak El Nino events. Our weather will depend on the position of the subtropical jetstream, quality of moisture in place to support precipitation, and other meteorological factors. We can tell you what we think may happen but until we get within a week we can’t even give you a good rain forecast. Chances are most of Texas will see several to numerous chances for precipitation this winter and the ‘flash drought’ will get squashed. Yet we’ll just have to see what happens. Lets just say my snow shovel will be at the ready.
‘Flash Drought’ Rapidly Develops along/east of I-35
- Thursday, 13 August 2015 08:18
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The hot off the press weekly drought monitor does not bring good news. This past July along with the past 30+ days have been some of the driest on record along and east of Interstate 35. Even with record rains in May the likewise impressive ongoing dry streak has resulted in the rapid development of drought conditions. Even in the past week we’ve seen drought conditions quickly deteriorate across East Texas, Southeast Texas, and even Central Texas. Local fire departments and the Texas Forestry Service have been responding to numerous grass fires – some of them becoming quite significant. Very hot conditions over the past few weeks has helped accelerate the redevelopment of drought conditions and drying of grasses. The rain in May helped grow grasses and now they’re almost bone dry. Until our weather pattern shifts conditions will only worsen. A bit of good news is that we should see the heat abate slightly next week. Afternoon storm chances may also return. While those afternoon storms won’t be big rain-makers at least some folks may get a bit of rain.
The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an average to above average chance for precipitation in the 6 to 10 day timeframe. With more clouds we should see temperatures fall back to seasonal averages. For most of Texas that means high temperatures in the low to mid 90s.
Abnormally Dry Conditions Return to East & Central Texas
- Friday, 31 July 2015 14:31
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Abnormally dry conditions have returned to parts of Texas. After record-breaking rains in May and June the month of July has been abnormally dry across the eastern half of Texas. Select locations in central Texas have not recorded a drop of rain throughout the month of July. On the other side of the spectrum portions of West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, south into the Concho Valley experienced episodes of heavy rain. The good news is over 99% of Texas remains out of an official drought designation. Watersheds remain in good shape across most of Texas, with notable exceptions in the Hill Country, Concho Valley, and locations that missed out on rains this year. There was no question we needed a break from the flooding rains to allow rivers and tributaries to stabilize. However medium to long range weather model guidance does not indicate any widespread precipitation chances over the next 10 days. As we head into the first week of August the heat down will build back into the state along with the southern plains of the United States. Temperatures will once again increase with the possibility of triple digit heat index values. Even with parts of the state experiencing no rain in July we remain in relatively good shape.
The record-breaking rains back in May and June it allowed us to break a five-year drought and help fill watersheds. With an El Niño continuing into the winter months we should see above average precipitation this winter along with the possibility of below average temperatures. It’s worth noting below average temperatures this winter does not mean we’re going to be cold or bitterly cold all the time. There will be periods of warm and dry weather – just like we’ve seen this summer.
Experimental long range weather model guidance indicates we may have a shot at a pattern change in the second half of August towards early September. Should the pattern change verify we may see the possibility of increased precipitation chances – but all of that is out in voodoo land right now. Time will tell but the first week of August looks dry, hot, and humid. Winter grasses have dried out and the danger for grass fires is on the rise.