Saturday, September 30, 2023

New year off to a parched start

The new year in Denton County started off as the old one ended; dry. Exceedingly dry.

To recap, December’s day-night average temperature was 11 degrees warmer than normal, but at least nearly 2 inches of rain fell during the month. For all of 2021, Denton Enterprise Airport recorded 31.3 inches of rain, well below the average annual rainfall of 35.6 inches.

On New Year’s Day, Denton reached 71 degrees, but a Canadian front blew in late in the day, dropping the overnight low to 20 degrees. A 51-degree temperature range is possible only when the air is sufficiently dry. Humidity has been very low most of the month.

The warmest high temperature was 77, on the 14th and 18th of the month. The coldest low was 15 degrees on the mornings of the 21st and 22nd. Those readings were several degrees colder than elsewhere in Denton County, reflecting the airport’s situation slightly lower than the surrounding terrain. It was a good demonstration of how dense frigid air “drains” into low spots when there’s no wind stirring.

Rainfall? What rainfall? Enterprise recorded .01” on January 1st and another .01” on the 26th. Unmeasurable traces were detected on the 8th, 9th, 19th and 24th of the month. Rainfall was predicted for Monday, the 31st, but less than a quarter-inch. That makes January 2022 one of the driest on record. No severe weather was reported during the month, although traces of sleet fell overnight on January 26/27.

Looking ahead, the Climate Prediction Center predicts more abnormally dry and warm weather through February and possibly into early spring. Most Texans won’t object, but the dark side of that forecast was evident when “fire danger” was highlighted in the local forecast during Stock Show weekend, much earlier than normal.

North Texas is already listed in “Severe Drought,” while nearly a third of the state, including the Panhandle, Big Country, Big Bend region and southern Hill Country are listed in “Extreme Drought.” The implications of a winter drought include not only fire danger, and wind-driven dust (and pollen), but more extreme swings of temperature, similar to the arid regions of the southwestern U.S. It’s probably time to water the lawn, even though it’s still winter.

Brad Barton
Brad Barton
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP 820 and 570 KLIF. His video weather podcast is posted to and Facebook around noon every Thursday. You can follow Brad on Twitter @BradBartonDFW

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