You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

What happened to the Godzilla El Niño, wetter-than-normal weather?


The Godzilla El Niño apparently got tuckered out after New Year’s Eve.

After a fall and early winter that propelled the Austin area into the second-wettest year on record in 2015, the rains have dried up. The drought they eradicated is showing the first signs of sneaking back into Texas. This was inevitable, given Central Texas’ history of swinging between wet and dry periods, but it has prompted questions about why it is happening now, with the El Niño weather system that tends to bring rain to the region still churning in the Pacific.

“We’ve gotten quite a few calls about it,” said Paul Yura, the second in command of the National Weather Service station that serves Central Texas. The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday released data showing drought conditions had expanded to about 12 percent of the state, including the Austin area.

Last week, only about 2.3 percent of the state — a few tiny portions of Big Bend, far South Texas and a sliver of western Hill Country — was considered abnormally dry, which means dryness has slowed planting and the growth of vegetation.

The dry vegetation, low humidity and high winds earlier this week made for particularly dangerous wildfire conditions in the Austin area.

So far, the lack of rain hasn’t caused a dip in the levels of the Highland Lakes, which serve as a water supply for the region’s communities. In the past two weeks, the elevation at Lake Buchanan has held steady around 1,012 feet above mean sea level (82 percent full) and Lake Travis at 677 feet (95 percent full). Combined storage for the two lakes is 89 percent full.

In an interview earlier this week with the Texas Standard, a weather service official in the Fort Worth area suggested this dry weather was just a temporary break and that wetter and cooler-than-normal conditions could soon return. Larry Hopper, a forecaster with the office that serves Central Texas, said there is another possibility: What we’re seeing now might not be that weird.

Hopper noted that Central Texas was so far ahead of its typical rainfall totals in 2015 that a dry stretch could simply be a correction that results in typical El Niño yields and totals that are still above normal. Rain does not typically fall in a steady pitter-patter in Central Texas but tends to come in cycles. An unusually wet period followed by a dry period can still be wetter than usual if they are averaged together.

“We might have had most of our rainfall on the front end,” Yura said.

Another possible answer involves making a distinction between normal El Niños, which crop up every few years, and particularly strong ones, which are rare. The normal ones tend to bring higher-than-typical rainfall.

The really strong ones actually don’t. It’s not clear exactly why. There have been only a handful of the really powerful El Niños, which means using them to predict how the weather of the future will be is little dicey. That’s why the distinction is rarely made.

But perhaps, Yura said, the wet weather of the fall was the anomaly.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Community news: Exhibition benefits Carver Museum

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Fundraiser benefits Carver Museum The George Washington Carver Ambassadors Inc. and Jerry’s Artarama are sponsoring the 11th annual 100% Community Exhibition and Silent Auction fundraiser to help benefit the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center. Artist packs will be available for pickup during...
AFFIDAVIT: Man arrested in shooting that seriously injured one Sunday
AFFIDAVIT: Man arrested in shooting that seriously injured one Sunday

Austin police arrested a man who shot and injured another man on Sunday night at a North Austin apartment complex, court records show. Raymond Tremond Allen, 24, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly shooting another man during a fight at the Silver Springs Apartments on Interstate 35 on Sunday. According to an arrest...
Protest, confrontation, death threat herald end of legislative session
Protest, confrontation, death threat herald end of legislative session

The last day of the Legislature on Monday was marred by a confrontation between lawmakers on the Texas House floor that involved death threats, shoving and a call to immigration authorities. The incident occurred as protesters were being removed from the House gallery after briefly shutting down proceedings by chanting their opposition to the new law...
Texas Digest: Fleeing man caused $1 million in damage, officials say

WEST TEXAS Chase leads to nearly $1 million in damage A man fleeing from sheriff’s deputies caused nearly $1 million in damage at a chemical plant when he crashed a pickup through several gates and ran inside, according to authorities in Hutchinson County. Sheriff Kirk Coker told the Amarillo Globe-News that 22-year-old Angel Vasquez slammed...
‘Suspicious activity’ detected on Seton hospital computer network
‘Suspicious activity’ detected on Seton hospital computer network

Ascension Health said Monday it had detected suspicious activity on its network of computers, which includes the Seton family hospitals. Representatives for the hospital did not provide details on Monday about the possible security breach or when it occurred but said that they had not identified any issues with patient safety. Here is the statement...
More Stories