January’s weather brought us a little bit of everything; ice, snow and near record warm temperatures, but most important, January gave us some much needed moisture.
Our average high was 56 and the average low was 34, which was very close to our historic temperature averages, despite the exceptionally warm temperatures near the end of the month. Most thermometers reached 80 degrees on the afternoon of January 29th, before a Pacific cold front swept through Denton County with strong storms.
We had just one brush with wintry weather on the morning of January 15th. A shallow Canadian cold front had already passed through North Texas a few days earlier and stalled near San Antonio. A weak upper-level disturbance, combined with marginal moisture and sub-freezing temperatures aloft created the perfect environment to produce graupel, also known as “snow grains” or “soft hail.”
Graupel is frequently mistaken for sleet, which is a frozen rain drop. Instead, graupel forms when snowflakes or ice crystals clump together. In Texas, in the winter, most snow that falls from sub-freezing clouds aloft melts before it reaches the ground. But, due to the shallow layer of cold air, topped by warm air, precipitation that began as snow partially melted a few thousand feet above the ground then re-froze as it passed through the last few hundred feet to the surface.
It was little more than a curiosity on the 13th and 14th, but on the 15th, it was heavy enough and mixed with enough sleet to glaze the bridges and overpasses with a thin layer of ice as our temperatures fell to 27 degrees. Our precipitation total for that day was only .04 inches, but it was enough.
Denton enjoyed above-normal rainfall during January. We had trace amounts during the first week of the month, but heavier rains of over 3.5” which were spread over January 8th and 9th. We had .04” of mixed precipitation on January 15th and .21” from the storms on the 29th. Total rainfall for the month was 3.86 inches. Denton’s normal January rainfall quota is 2.10 inches.
For February, our longer-range models indicate nothing unusually warm, cold, wet or dry. Pacific ocean temperatures are still near their historic averages, meaning neither an El Nino nor a La Nina will affect our weather. For now, we expect February’s rainfall to be slightly below normal and our temperatures near normal, which seems to be the forecast trend for early spring, as well.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP/KLIF/KPLX and Founder of WeatherInTouch.net.