What is now considered to be a weak El Niño likely will result in a wet, cool winter for most of Texas.
That should be a welcome change from the past four dry winter seasons.
A moderate to strong El Niño usually means more moisture to parts of the Southwest and Southeast during the late fall and winter, says John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist in college Station.
El Niño refers to warmer-than-average ocean water temperatures off the Pacific coast of South America. “We’ve been waiting for El Niño to develop for about six months now, and it still hasn’t quite happened,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Temperatures in the tropical Pacific have been running above normal for most of the period, and there’s still a great deal of warm water beneath the surface. So the odds still favor at least a weak El Niño developing over the next couple of months and lasting through most of the winter.”
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He said it doesn’t really matter whether the official El Niño criteria of “warm enough for long enough” are met. It will still affect Texas weather at least to some degree.
“The expectations from the Climate Prediction Center, based on simulations and past history, are that the chances are more likely of having a cool, wet winter rather than a warm, dry one,” he said. The reason for optimism is that the warmer temperatures in the tropics tend to drag the jet stream farther south than normal.
Since Texas is already normally sitting south of the jet stream in the winter time, this brings us more into the path of winter storms,” he said. “Somewhat paradoxically, even though it may be a cool winter, it’s not supposed to bring any of those remarkably cold spells because in general the jet stream won’t be going far enough north to drag any Arctic air masses down this far.”
This means more cloudy and rainy winter weather, “which many people might find annoying, but that will be good for agricultural production and bring some relief to the drier parts of the state,” Nielsen-Gammon said.