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October brought El Niño preview

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Meteorologist Brad Barton
Meteorologist Brad Barton

October’s rains were late in coming, but when they finally came, they wasted no time refilling the lakes, rivers and creeks and saturating the soils after a long, dry summer.  Further, the rains this past month are the first local evidence that an El Niño winter is on the way.

October’s big rainfall continued the pattern of feast-or-famine we’ve dealt with all year.

A quick recap:  January’s rainfall was 2 inches above normal, followed by a normal February and a dry March, whose rainfall was an inch below normal.  April’s nearly 6 inches of rain was 3 inches above normal followed by May’s record-shattering rains of nearly 12 inches, a full 7 inches above normal.

June’s 4.3 inches was near normal, then the valve was turned off.  July brought only .43 inches of rain and August was even drier, with only .12 inches, followed by 1.59 inches in September which was an inch below normal.

In the four months between June 19th and October 21st, Denton Enterprise Airport recorded just over two inches of rain (2.12”).  Not only was it a hot and dry four months, the month-long drought between September 19 and October 21 was more than frustrating to a lot of people who were anxious for fall to begin.  And it didn’t help that October was significantly warmer than normal.  Our average high of 81 and average low of 56 gave us a day-night monthly average temperature of 68, which was 3 degrees warmer than normal.

Ocean temperatures in the Pacific continue to hold well above their normal readings for the season, indicating the current El Niño is one of the strongest in decades.  Not only is there a band of unusually warm water west of South America near the equator, a secondary band of warmer-than-normal water has been loitering along the Pacific coast between Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

That secondary branch of El Niño is what amplified and intensified a routine storm system in the Gulf of Alaska, resulting in floods in California, early snows in the Sierras and Rockies and our three-day outbreak of rain which totaled 5.29 inches, starting on October 22nd.  Farther south, rainfall totals of 7 inches were common in Tarrant and Dallas Counties.  Over 18 inches fell during that time in Corsicana, cutting off I-45 for most of 24 hours.  A second outbreak on October 30th brought another 2.68 inches to Denton, raising our monthly rainfall total to 8.23 inches of rain.

The latest outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center indicate we can expect more above-normal rainfall during November from Texas through the mid-South and similar above-normal precipitation from December through March, when El Niño’s effects are expected to be most pronounced in this region.

Yes, it could be a snowy winter, but there’s more to consider than just snow.  Local, regional and federal water officials are going to have their hands full, managing the anticipated excessive rainfall on watersheds whose lakes and rivers are already near capacity.

Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for NewsTalk 820 WBAP/News 570 KLIF/99.5 “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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