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El Niño a no-show?

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Meteorologist Brad Barton
Meteorologist Brad Barton

January of 2016 turned out to be about normal in temperature and below normal in precipitation in Denton County.

Although much of the country experienced wet and stormy weather, our anticipated El Niño rain-events in Texas were few and far between.  Not only is the El Niño weakening rapidly, it may reverse course and lead to a La Niña, which has far-reaching effects on our long-range warm-season forecasts.

Although highs averaged in the 50’s, the last few days of January were unseasonably warm, topping out at 76 degrees on Saturday, January 26th.  Our coldest temperature was 23 degrees on the morning of January 18th.  Our average day-night temperature was 44, which is near normal for January.

Rainfall was sparse at just .85″, a full inch below normal.  Our best rain was .59″ on January 6th.  Our only other significant rainfall at Denton Enterprise Airport was .24″ on the 21st.

Before complaining about drought, remember our dry January allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lower Lewisville Lake and begin to drain the flood pools.  Hydrologists at the National Weather Service say the roughly 140 billion gallons of water drained off area lakes will come in handy if we have early spring floods.  The other side of the coin is that we are at increasing risk of wildfires until we get more rain.

While the west coast endured torrential rains and flooding, the Mid-Atlantic states and major northeast cities had their first winter storm of the season, which also happened to be one their worst on record.  Fortunately, the coldest Arctic air stayed up Canada.  Only the Panhandle and West Texas have experienced snow so far this month.

A quick word about the December 26th tornado outbreak that killed at least twelve people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, damaging thousands:  Many of the fatalities in the Garland/Rowlett area were drivers and passengers who either drove into the storm unaware or were stopped in traffic as it tore across I-30 at the George Bush Turnpike.  We generally do a good job finding shelter in homes and businesses, but we have work to do when it comes to storm safety in cars.  Whenever storms are in the area, make sure you are monitoring live, local broadcasts.  Satellite and recorded entertainment will not help you understand what is happening, where the storms are, how they’re moving and how bad they are.

Looking ahead, the only sensible thing to forecast in February is persistence of our dry, mild weather pattern, at least through the first two weeks of the month.  Normally, we have roughly three ‘snow days’ each winter.  As ocean temperatures return to normal in the Pacific, we have reason to believe this El Niño may be followed by a La Niña, which could mean a hot, dry summer.  The only real trend right now is no trend, so we’ll have to see what February brings.

Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP 820/570KLIF/99.5 “The Wolf.” Paul Ruekberg of NewsWatch Dallas contributed to this report.  

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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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