This early bout of Arctic air raises the question of what’s in store for this winter.
With a slight chance of snow late Sunday and into Monday, will North Texas see more winter storms like last year’s so-called Icemaggedon, which shut down North Texas in early December? Or will it be a typical Texas winter with just a few rounds of cold air plunging south?
Some weather watchers are suggesting it’s going to be colder than normal.
The long-range outlooks for January through March by the Climate Prediction Center continue to predict a wetter and cooler winter for most of Texas.
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The biggest influence is expected to be an El Niño, where above-normal sea surface temperatures off the Pacific Coast of South America tend to bring wetter and cooler weather to Texas. The Climate Prediction Center has forecast a 58 percent chance of El Niño this winter.
“If we’re having a weak El Niño, the chances for significant drought relief would be less,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Huckaby. “Even if we do have a wetter-than-normal winter, it’s really hard to reverse the hydrological drought in one season, which could make the spring rainy season really important.”
State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said El Niño is already happening — it’s just a question of its strength.
“We’ll get a little bit of a boost of cool, wet weather,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “It will improve the odds a little bit but there are no guarantees.”
Nielsen-Gammon said some effects of El Niño are already being seen in the rainfall that doused Texas in early November.
“There are some aspects to that rain event at the beginning of November that have some El Niño characteristics,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “The influence does start showing up in November.”
Nielsen-Gammon isn’t ready to predict a rough winter but points to another factor that could bring colder weather.
The Rutgers University Snow Lab has reported that 14.1 million square kilometers of snow covered Siberia by the end of October, which was the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Bloomberg.
There is some data to suggest that a heavy Siberian snowpack leads to a colder winter across the Northern Hemisphere.
The sample size isn’t big enough to definitely prove the correlation, but Nielsen-Gammon said the Siberian snowfall is something to consider.
“I think there’s a good chance they’re right but I’m not willing to bet the farm,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
Besides the chance of colder weather, there is still the question of how much this winter will help ease the four-year drought that has parked itself over North Texas
Typically, droughts do improve somewhat during winter — and that happened last year.
“I think with even normal rainfall there ought to be some improvement in reservoir levels,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Whether that would be enough to get reservoirs full or back to normal levels, that is another story.”
But as the cold has descended over North Texas, water usage has plunged.
Late last week, the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides raw water to almost all of Tarrant County, said 230 million to 240 million gallons of water was being used daily. That was down from about 400 million gallons this summer and 322 million gallons during the last week of October.
But David Marshall, the water district’s engineering services director, said the early November rains added only about a week’s worth of water.
“We haven’t seen a break in the drought like other regions of the state,” Marshall said.
As for the chance of snowy weather this weekend. forecasters don’t believe it will be a big event. If residents are lucky, they might see a few flurries.
“There’s still a chance,” Huckaby said. “The worst would be a dusting of snow. But the impacts should be pretty low. ”
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698