Another long, hot summer in DFW draws near

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The long, hot summer

18 The average number of 100-degree days in North Texas. The average first day for triple-digit heat is June 30.

34 100-degree days region recorded in 2012. The first occurred June 24.

71 The record number of 100-degree days North Texas endured in 2011. The first coming June 13. Source: National Weather Service Fort Worth

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The first 100-degree day of the year is coming — likely by Wednesday or Thursday — and like the last two summers, expect it to be the first of many.

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures to stay hot for at least the next 10 days. It was already 91 degrees at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“It looks like an early start,” said Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. “I think we’ll get a long stream of them.”

The Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook shows there’s a good chance the Dallas-Fort Worth area will see a hotter than normal summer. Typically, the DFW area sees an average of 1.2 100-degree-days in June with the bulk of triple-digit days coming in July and August.

The DFW area saw below normal temperatures for three consecutive months from March through May – the first time that has happened since 2004 – but the cooler spring temperatures are no guarantee it will carry over to summer.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Huckaby said an upper level ridge of high pressure is settling in across Texas, which could lead to “a handful” of 100-degree days before the end of the month.

“The fact that it is coming in this early is really going to stifle the June precipitation,” Huckaby said. “If we don't have that soil moisture, come July, that really could effect us. The heat we get intensifies the ridge. It gets harder to displace.”

The Texas Water Development Board’s weekly drought update shows there has been some improvement in East Texas from recent rains but it continues to get worse in West Texas.

Huckaby said it’s hard to predict how many 100-degree days the DFW-area will see this summer. Odds are it won’t be as bad as 2011, the current record-holder with 71 100-degree days. But it could be as bad as or worse than last summer when the region saw 34, well above the average of 18 we see in a typical summer.

The one thing that could break the sweltering cycle of heat would be tropical moisture bringing rain from the Gulf of Mexico. That happened in the summers of 2004 and 2007. But Huckaby said those types of systems are impossible to predict more than two weeks in advance.

But one thing is clear. The region has less water than it did at the start of last summer.

‘Lake levels much lower’

As of Tuesday at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, rainfall is 3.14 inches below normal for 2013. But some areas of North Texas are 15-20 inches below normal over the last 12-15 months. One of the driest areas locally includes an area that stretches from the Alliance corridor in far north Fort Worth to Denton and westward near Alvord in Wise County, Huckaby said.

In the Drought Information Statement released last week, the National Weather Service noted municipal water supplies had dropped 15 to 20 percent from a year ago.

“The lake levels are much lower than the beginning of last summer,” Huckaby said. “Those issues are going to be more of a concern this summer because we have less water to start with. If you have a hot summer, it increases evaporation and increases water usage.”

The dry conditions have already forced outdoor watering restrictions to be imposed for many residents. The Tarrant Regional Water District, which supplies raw water to almost all of Tarrant County, began Stage 1 twice-a-week outdoor watering restrictions June 3.

The North Texas Municipal Water District, which provides water to a number of Dallas suburbs, including Plano, Frisco and Richardson, imposed Stage 3 once-a-week outdoor watering restrictions June 1.

Lake Bridgeport, one of Tarrant Regional’s water supply lakes, is 17.86 feet below normal. Tarrant Regional is releasing water from the lake for water supply but will end releases by early July “to conserve the remaining water in Bridgeport for local use,” said David Marshall, the water district’s engineering services director.

Marshall said the drought for Lake Bridgeport’s watershed has been as bad as what was seen in the 1950s, which is considered the drought of record for North Texas.

“The drought is severe at Bridgeport,” Marshall said via email. “Total runoff for the last three years is now lower than the worst three consecutive years of the drought of the past in the 1950s.”

Don’t count on relief

The Climate Prediction Center’s latest seasonal drought outlook predicts the western half of Texas will remain dry. In Texas, nearly 60 percent of the state was in severe drought or experiencing more severe conditions. Despite some parts of the state seeing rainfall over the weekend, Nielsen-Gammon doesn’t expect drought conditions to improve when the new drought monitor is released Thursday.

The state climatologist said low soil moisture in Central Texas could help heat up the southerly winds as they blow toward the DFW area this summer.

“There’s nothing I can point to that is promising,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “The Atlantic Ocean’s temperatures are running above normal. That favors a dry summer for Texas. There’s still nothing promising developing as far as El Niño, which tends to bring wetter winters for Texas.”

Like Huckaby, Nielsen-Gammon said the best hope is to keep an eye on the Gulf, just don’t count on it.

“You could get a couple of slow-moving tropical systems but that’s about all you’ve got to hope for right now,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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