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Warmest year on record ends on a cold, wet note

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December of 2012 was a month of extreme temperature swings, but little precipitation until Christmas Day.  Denton hit 82 on December 1st and plunged to 15 degrees just a few days later on December 11th.  Our average high was 59 and average low was 36.  

Rainfall was sparse.  We had .20” on the 14th, 1.02” on the 25th, a few hundredths after Christmas and .36” on December 31st.  Total December rainfall at Denton Municipal Airport was 1.66 inches, well below the historic average of 2.5” for December.  The Christmas Day rain changed over to sleet at midday and ended with around 1 to 3” of snow before nightfall.  

Preliminary rainfall figures for all of 2012 are troubling.  Although DFW recorded over 31 inches of rain, which represents a roughly 5-inch shortfall for the year, Denton was far drier.  For the year, Denton Municipal recorded just over 23 inches of rain, representing a more than 10-inch shortfall in annual rainfall.  

Lakes and ponds show it, too.  As of Christmas Day, Wise, Denton, Collin, Cooke and Grayson Counties were all listed in the “Extreme Drought” category by National Weather Service meteorologists.  Spring wildfire season could be very difficult.    

On a broader scale, 2012 was one of the warmest years since weather records began in North Texas in 1898.  The National Weather Service computed 2012’s average high at 80, the average low of 58.6 and overall average temperature at 69.3 degrees, which tied 2012 with 2006 for the warmest year on record at DFW Airport.  

As for weather highlights, North Texas experienced a prolonged outbreak of 20 tornadoes on April 3rd, causing an estimate $800 million in damage and 29 mostly minor injuries.  Remarkably, there were no fatalities in any of those storms.  June 13th, a massive hailstorm hit the DFW area, causing another $900 million in damage, but again no fatalities.  

Unfortunately, lethal storms returned to North Texas July 1st and July 7th, producing “outflow” wind gusts that overturned some boats on area lakes, resulting in four fatalities.  The drought worsened during fall.  The year ended with a relatively rare White Christmas.    

Our winter weather outlook is affected by generally neutral water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and near-normal atmospheric circulations in the Northern Hemisphere.  For now, we’re expecting temperatures in North Texas to run slightly warmer than normal and rainfall to be near normal from January through March.  While the news could be worse, it appears unlikely we’ll be able to make up our 2012 rainfall deficit in early 2013. 

Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP 820AM/96.7FM, KLIF 570 and 99.5FM, “The Wolf.”

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About The Author

Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP 820/570 KLIF/99.5 "The Wolf." Read his column on Denton County weather each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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