Our January outlook in the December issue turned out to be only half-right. Instead of being warmer than normal, January was much colder than normal. The rainfall part of the forecast was painfully accurate; much drier than normal. It is clear that we will be living with threat of fast-spreading grass and brush fires for the foreseeable future.
Our coldest high temperature of the month was 27 on January 1st. Our warmest high temperatures of 74 and 75 were recorded on the 20th and 21st. Our coldest early morning low was a bone-cracking 4 degrees on the morning of January 17th. Not only that, Denton Enterprise Airport recorded six early morning lows in the teens. Combining our average daily highs and lows, our average temperature for the month was only 41 degrees, 2.4 degrees below normal for January.
Rainfall was pitiful, only 11/100ths of an inch on January 7th. Since December 23rd, Denton has recorded only one-third of an inch in nearly 6 weeks. And our prospects for rain in the near future don’t look any better. And when you realize that Denton ended 2017 with a six-inch rainfall deficit, there’s reason for concern. The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to have Denton County in the “Moderate Drought” category, which may be downgraded to “Severe Drought” if February’s rainfall is no better than in January.
The Climate Prediction Center’s one-month outlook is heavily based on a strengthening La Nina in the equatorial Pacific. Surface ocean temperatures are now consistently running 1 degree below normal and may still be cooling. Playing the averages, the current La Nina is likely to result in warmer-than-normal temperatures in February (an early spring?) and slightly drier-than-normal conditions.
A mandatory burn ban for Denton County was issued on January 30. The ban prohibits all outdoor burning, including restrictions on outdoor welding and cutting torch operations, and the use of combustible materials. Violation of the burn ban is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.
Clearing away brush and mowing high grass around your property might be a good idea as the weather permits.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP820/570KLIF/99.5 ‘The Wolf.’