The winter of 2015-2016 was hyped from the beginning thanks to a ‘Godzilla’ El Nino. Historical and climatological records indicated a better than average chance for a wet and cool winter. Three months later and obviously it was a dud.
Even though this past winter was relatively quiet there were a couple notable events. The blizzard and tornado outbreak of December 26-27, 2015 definitely won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Texans expect snow in December but not violent tornadoes in urban areas. The December 26 event proved tornadoes can and do happen year-round. Tornadoes don’t avoid urban centers or large bodies of water. Many myths were disproven yet again.
Several minor winter weather events occurred in the Panhandle and West Texas in December and January. Besides some travel inconveniences those events didn’t add up to much. River flooding continued into January after the heavy rains from the late December storm system. A couple hailstorms occurred in January in East Texas and Southeast Texas. January 8 was notable for the tennis-ball size hail that fell near Huntsville, TX.
The hopes of a wet and cool winter obviously didn’t happen. If not for the post-Christmas event this past winter would have been very quiet. Meteorological winter covered the months of December, January, and February. The Texas Panhandle, Red River Valley, Northeast Texas, and a small section of South-Central Texas, south of San Antonio, experienced average to above-average precipitation this past winter. The above-average totals in the Texas Panhandle were due to the copious amounts of snow that fell with the post-Christmas system. The same system produced widespread 6 to 10 inch rain amounts in Northeast Texas. Outside of those regions most of the state experienced precipitation totals 10 to 90 percent of average for a Texas winter. It was definitely dry in many areas. Others had a fairly wet winter. With the ‘El Nino’ hype I think many were disappointed – including yours truly.
Surface temperatures ended up being above-average across much of the state this winter as well. Only Far West Texas experienced temperatures near average. Many seasonal forecasts projected below-average temperatures for Texas. Also interesting is that the eastern two-thirds of the United States experienced a warmer winter as well.
This past winter behaved similarly to the 1957-1958 El Nino episode. If that analog is to continue this spring a few interesting weather events could occur. Precipitation would likely be above-average with an average to slightly below-average tornado season. We wrote an in-depth article in February comparing this El Nino to past analogs. Check that post out for more details on what may occur this spring based on past analogs.
Seasonal outlooks are – at best – a guess of what will happen months away. It seems they’ve been more wrong than right over the past couple of years. We’ll be sure to make that abundantly clear next time we post a seasonal outlook. Speaking of which – here is the Climate Prediction Center’s precipitation outlook for now through May. I do think this period will be wetter than what we saw this past winter. Compared to the May 2015 historic rain event? Don’t bet on it.