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El Nino still a no-show in Texas; bone dry conditions likely for 2 weeks in much of the state

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LUBBOCK, Texas — El Nino is proving to be finicky.

The rain-producing weather pattern was expected to arrive in Texas by now, but the outlook for moisture across much of the state through the end of October and into November doesn't look promising. A lot of the state will be "bone dry," Victor Murphy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said.

Forecasters have been waiting for El Nino to develop for about six months, but it hasn't arrived yet, John Nielsen-Gammon, the state's climatologist and Texas A&M professor of atmospheric sciences, said in a recent release.

"Temperatures in the tropical Pacific have been running above normal for most of the period, and there's still a great deal of warm water beneath the surface," he said. "So the odds still favor at least a weak El Nino developing over the next couple of months and lasting through most of the winter."

El Nino, a flow of unusually warm surface waters from the Pacific Ocean toward and along the western coast of South America, changes rain and temperature patterns around the world and usually raises global temperatures.

El Nino will likely be weaker than predicted months ago. Forecasts are calling for winter weather in Texas to be mostly cloudy, rainy and cool.

The drought in Texas that started in late 2010 and worsened in 2011, the state's driest year ever, seems to be easing. The U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that more than 51 percent of the state is out of drought, up from about 42 percent three months ago.

Through September the state has gotten 19.45 inches of rain, about 15 percent below the normal average of 22.68 inches.

But there are parts of the state still mired in the two driest categories on the map — extreme or exceptional drought — specifically a triangular area from the Dallas-Fort Worth area west along Interstate 20 to near Abilene and then northward to near Wichita Falls.

"This part of Texas should stay very dry, with near zero rainfall through the end of October," Murphy said.

Given that scenario, the period from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will be the driest since 1987, with about 2.14 inches of rain, which is 32 percent of the normal of 6.77 inches for the two-month period.

The area had its driest September since record keeping began in 1898; just .06 inches of rain fell last month.

October is the second-wettest month of the year for the region behind May, Murphy said.

Lake levels in the area have also been affected, some hitting all-time lows. Lake Ray Hubbard is at its lowest level since its impoundment in 1969.

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