December in Denton County was typified by two strong, but short cold snaps, surrounded by warm and unusually dry weather for the month. No White Christmas this year.
We endured wide temperature-swings several times just before cold fronts. Our second warmest high for the month was 76 degrees on the 11th, followed by a 43-degree temperature drop to an overnight low of 33. Most of Denton experience a hard, killing freeze on the mornings of December 8th (24 degrees) and 9th (20 degrees).
Our second and strongest cold snap resulted in an even more drastic drop from a high of 64 degrees on the 17th to a low of 12 degrees the next morning and a high of only 28 degrees on the 18th. Even colder, we reached a crackling 11-degree low on the 19th. Some secondary reporting stations in Denton and Northwest Tarrant Counties reported 9 degrees that morning. That cold snap lasted about 5 days but we began a strong warming trend into the 50’s and 60’s just before Christmas. And on Christmas Day, most areas throughout North Texas broke high-temperature records. Denton reached 79 and DFW reached 80. Not to be outdone, the mercury reached 83 degrees on the 28th!
Rainfall… not so much. Most of our rain came over a four day period from the 2nd through the 5th, amounting to .59 of an inch. We picked up another .07″ on the 23rd and 24th for an unofficial monthly total of .66 inches of rain, which was not only 1.5 inches below normal, but it also made December our driest month of the entire year.
We book-ended the year with dry months in January (.85″) and December (.66″), yet we enjoyed several above-normal monthly rainfall totals in March, April, May, July and August. In all, Denton Enterprise Airport recorded over 43 inches of rain in 2016, roughly 5 inches above normal for the year. We’ll probably need it in 2017.
Looking ahead, a weakening La Nina is still in the driver’s seat of our long-term forecast. Ocean surface temperatures in the central Pacific had been running about 1 degree cooler than normal for the past several months, but they’ve been easing up to near normal during November and December. The Climate Prediction Center believes the weak La Nina will be entirely over by spring. Based on that outlook and other factors, we can expect North Texas weather to be drier and warmer than normal through January and the rest of the winter months. That doesn’t mean a complete lack of Canadian or Arctic fronts reaching Texas. A few will in January, February and March, but those cold air intrusions should be fewer and milder.
A quick reminder: Please remember to turn your sprinkler systems off for the winter and operate them only manually and sparingly. Winter-dormant lawns and landscapes need very little water. That also goes for a number of cities in North Texas that tend to water their median landscapes almost every night. The icy wreck you prevent may be your own!
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP820/570KLIF/99.5 “The Wolf.”