The good news: You’ll probably be able to stand on the sidewalk this summer without your soles melting to the concrete.
The bad news: Fall could bring Central Texas back into that sort of hot, dry weather pattern.
That was the forecast delivered Wednesday by Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose. The forecast, which took various climate models and other experts’ opinions into account, concluded that the El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific that contributed to wetter and cooler than usual conditions during the last nine months has all but dissipated. It is likely to be replaced this fall by La Niña, the evil twin of El Niño that tends to bring hotter and drier conditions (and possibly drought).
In between, the saturated soils and other promising conditions mean a Central Texas summer that will have relatively fewer people comparing it to an unrepentant sinner’s final destination.
“At this point I’m just not seeing us getting the countless 100-degree days” that can happen in an Austin summer, Rose said. Summer is probably “going to be average to maybe (slightly) above average” in terms of temperature “with above average rainfall,” he said.
This spring has left Central Texas about as prepared for summer as one could hope for. Lakes Travis and Buchanan, the reservoirs that supply much of the region, are a combined 99 percent full, with more water on the way due to likely storms later this week. That means there are roughly a million Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water in them. Lake Travis is actually more than 100 percent full — the LCRA, which manages the lakes, has been releasing extra water downstream to bring it down from 105 percent of its capacity, the highest it has been since 2010.
The trade-off is that if the lake rises two more feet, it begins to threaten to swamp lakeside homes and docks, such as those in Graveyard Point. The lake levels have prompted LCRA officials to caution people living along the lakes to prepare for the off-chance that a sudden deluge causes flooding.
Lake Travis is not actually full, in the most basic sense; it can still rise an additional 33 feet before it becomes truly full. But that extra 33 feet of elevation is what the LCRA’s river operations manager, John Hofmann, calls “Central Texas’ insurance policy” — it is there to hold back a sudden deluge from raging through Austin, Bastrop and other downstream communities, as the Colorado River did periodically before the dams along it were built starting in the 1930s.
“Our river has a history, when uncontrolled, of coming down through Austin … and trying to wipe everything off the Earth,” Hofmann said.
The lake is likely to begin dipping during summer and fall. Though La Niña isn’t assured to bring drought — in 1998, a La Niña brought warmer and wetter conditions — it is a distinct possibility, noted Michael Lyttle, a member of a “virtual operations support team” of volunteers that assist the National Weather Service. After all, the last year saw Central Texas swing from epic drought to downpours to a mini-drought to more downpours to one of the driest starts to a year to this wet spring.
The wet weather should resume later this week, Rose said, and should continue on and off through May.
Statesman Weather app keeps Central Texans forewarned
The all-new American-Statesman weather app is available for iPhone and Android devices. Statesman Weather features include radar, a 7-day forecast, real-time severe weather alerts, as well as the latest weather news and social sharing. Download for free in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores by searching for “Statesman Weather.”