As El Nino Dissipates, Texas Still Recovering From Warmer Than Normal Winter

May 10, 2016

The current El Nino weather pattern that’s been in place since last summer over the central Pacific Ocean is on its way out, Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said Friday, but not before leaving Texas with one of its warmest winters on record.

“Though above-normal rainfall is common during an El NiƱo, above-normal temperatures are not common,” said the Texas A&M professor, noting that weather patterns in the state could change in the coming months under the influence of La Nina, a natural cooling in the Pacific that typically results in more hurricanes in the Atlantic and fewer in the Pacific.

It’s believed the warm El Nino waters have been responsible for above-average rainfall over the last year in much of Texas and the southwestern part of the U.S.

Although there was a dry stretch in January and February, the six-month period that started in November and ended in April was the 7th wettest in Texas, based on records that go back to 1895. Nielsen-Gammon said his statistics show that if the wet October 2015 is included, those seven months are the wettest October-April period on record.

The rain, however, wasn’t evenly distributed. While many parts of west-central, north-central and northeast Texas received more than double their normal precipitation, parts of the Coastal Bend and much of the Panhandle and High Plains received less than normal precipitation.

Temperatures also were noteworthy, with winter nearly nonexistent in many places, he said.

“Many cities across the state, from Amarillo to Brownsville and El Paso to Beaumont, experienced one of their 10 warmest cool seasons (November-April) on record,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Midland-Odessa came closest to setting a record – their average temperature was 54.8 degrees, second only to the year 2000.”

Low temperatures of 22 degrees in Abilene, 27 degrees in Dallas, 30 in San Antonio, 31 in urban Austin and 40 in Galveston were all records for mildness.

He foresees mild summer temperatures, particularly in the early summer months, but says long-range summer weather in the state is difficult to predict.

“For hurricanes, the key will be how quickly La Nina develops in the tropical Pacific,” he said. “The sooner La Nina forms, the more active the Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be. Even so, Texas is a small target, so an active hurricane season across the entire Atlantic would not necessarily mean one or more landfalls in Texas itself.”

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