December continued our streak of ‘streakiness’ in North Texas weather. Denton County had only four rainy days – all clustered near the end of the month. Many of us had nothing more than a trace between early November and late December, a period of roughly seven weeks without rain.
By the numbers, December will go into the books with near-normal highs and warmer-than-normal lows. The average high this December was 57, which is near normal. Our average low was 36, significantly warmer than our normal average low of December of 33.
Our temperature extremes: 83 on December 21st and 19 degrees on the 13th. DFW set two record highs on consecutive days. December 20th was a record 79 degrees, and the following day was 85. Remarkably, those record highs occurred near the winter solstice, with the fewest hours of sunlight.
Our rainfall for the month was about 2 inches, slightly below normal (2.57”). The first measurable rain of .95” fell Friday, December 24th. Our next rain of about an inch was scattered over December 28th and 29th.
Our final year-end rainfall numbers appear fairly normal – 35” of actual precipitation compared to our historic average of 35 to 38 inches. But without the 9” we received from Tropical Storm Hermine in September, things would look very different.
The effects of drought are always masked this time of year by low sun angle and cooler temperatures which reduce evaporation and transpiration. But make no mistake; North and Central Texas are in drought right now. Lake levels are generally dropping. Some lakes are three feet below normal already. Burn bans are common throughout Texas. Winter wheat and oats are up but stressed, and a lack of winter forage is forcing cattle raisers to buy more expensive hay and alfalfa out of state. For now, it’s mainly an ‘agricultural drought’ but it will probably reach all of us this spring.
Our winter outlook has not changed. Colder La Nina water temperatures in the Pacific will tend to steer most storm systems from Southern California up into the Rockies and Plains, missing Texas. We expect January and February to continue the trend of below-normal rainfall and near-normal temperatures.