Texas has seen record-breaking rainfall over the last two years

Heavy rainfall forced water releases from Lake Bridgeport in 2015 after record-breaking May rainfall.
Heavy rainfall forced water releases from Lake Bridgeport in 2015 after record-breaking May rainfall. Star-Telegram archives

If it seems that Texas has been getting more than its share of gully washers lately, the rainfall data says it’s actually true.

The last two years have been a record-breaker for Texas, according to State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

From Sept. 1, 2014 through Wednesday, the average rainfall across Texas was 75.17 inches, topping the previous record of 74.85 inches that occurred in 1942.

Locally the rainfall totals have also been impressive.

At Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the same period was the third-wettest 24 months on record with 96.69 inches, finishing behind 99.61 inches of rainfall that occurred between April 1991 and March 1993. DFW Airport has recorded 96.63 inches between October 2014 and Thursday.

“If you get another 3 inches the rest of this month, you would set a new two-year record,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

Dallas Love Field set a 24-month record with 104.81 inches from September 2014 through August, breaking the old record of 104.47 set in August 1920.

In a way, none of this should be a surprise since 2015 was the wettest on record locally with 62.61 inches at DFW Airport. So far in 2016, 24.21 inches of rain have fallen at DFW, which is 4.46 inches above normal.

Goodbye to El Niño

The wet weather can be partially explained by an El Niño — a weather pattern where warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific bring wetter weather to Texas — that occurred over the last 18 months.

“We had a very strong El Niño that contributed to these totals,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “On top of that, we had some exceptional events such as the entire month of May in 2015.”

The question now is what comes next.

It’s expected to dry out this weekend across North Texas, with the next chance for rain coming in the middle of next week.

The Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for September through November shows equal chances of wet or dry weather.

Forecasters also predict that a weak La Niña will form this winter. La Niña is the sibling weather pattern to El Niño that occurs when cooler-than-normal waters in the equatorial Pacific bring drier weather to Texas.

Another, more long-term weather pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation brings hope that the repeated droughts Texas has seen over the last 15-20 years may be coming to an end.

“We’re still on track to be breaking it,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “La Niña looks like it going to be weak, and the long-term conditions in the northern Pacific still appear to be favorable.”

Lakes full after ‘extraordinary’ rains

The rainfall has also benefited area lakes.

Most are full or close to it, which means boating conditions should be ideal for the Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer recreational season.

For the second straight year, the Tarrant Regional Water District, the raw-water provider for almost all of Tarrant County, is ending the summer with all of its lakes full.

On Friday morning, the system capacity of TRWD’s four water supply lakes — Eagle Mountain, Bridgeport, Richland-Chambers and Cedar Creek — sat at 100.1 percent.

This the eighth time since 1987 that the combined storage of those four lakes has been 95 percent or higher on Sept. 1.

If North Texas receives near normal rainfall, TRWD’s lakes should remain close to full into spring.

“The rainfall we’ve had over the last two years has been extraordinary,” said David Marshall, TRWD’s director of engineering and operations support.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

DFW’s wettest 2 years on record

99.61 April 1991 through March 1993

97.41 September 1913 through August 1915

96.93 October 2014 through September 2016

Source: Texas State Climatologist