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2016-03-03

El Niño – still affecting Texas weather?

By Robert Burns

By Robert Burns
rd-burns@tamu.edu

Most of the state has been drier than normal by 1 inch to 3 inches for the last 30 days, according to the National Weather Service.
So what happened to the wetter-than-normal winter predicted because of El Niño?
“It all depends upon what time period you are looking at,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and Regents Professor at Texas A&M University, College Station. “It’s been fairly dry since the beginning of 2016, but from October through December, we were generally quite wet.”
In fact, Nielsen-Gammon said, the October through December period was wet enough to bring the average rainfall total several inches above the average for strong El Niños of the past.
“While we’ve had a dry winter, the combined fall and winter have been wetter than normal,” he said. “Typically, you get one or two dry months within an El Niño. There’s no guarantee the whole thing is going to be wetter than average. A lot is going to depend upon the weather from day to day or week to week.”
Nielsen-Gammon said the current El Niño remains strong, with no sign it’s going to weaken until spring or summer. Also, many areas, including Bandera County, had rain the last week of February.
“I believe we’re just going through a temporary dry stretch that is soon going to be coming to an end, particularly in western Texas over the next couple of weeks,” he said.
There have been some reports that the current El Niño is actually strengthening, but it depends upon what metric is used, Nielsen-Gammon noted.
“It’s gotten a little bit stronger in some ways and weaker in others. It’s basically just holding its own right now.”
But there are signs of the coming demise of the El Niño, he said.
“There’s a lot of cold water close to the surface in the western tropical Pacific Ocean that is going to be moving eastward over the next couple of months,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Hopefully, the cold water won’t take over and turn into a La Niña by next winter, because that would mean a dry year next year.”