4:00 PM CST | February 17, 2019
I wanted to write about the weather over the last few months - what I said before the winter season and how everything has panned out. Think of it as a "State of the Climate Address" covering what has gone right... and what has gone wrong. In mid-August, I wrote that an El Nino was likely to develop. I discussed four El Nino winters that came on the heels of a La Nina. Three out of the four resulted in above normal snowfall for places like Dallas-Fort Worth. Two of these ('09-10 & '76-77) resulted in double digit snowfall amounts at DFW Airport. There was one, however, which resulted in less than a half inch of snow at the airport - the winter of 2006-2007. How much has DFW Airport seen through today? A trace was reported in January. Since March of 2015, DFW has failed to record more than .10" of snow in a month.
The city of Amarillo, which sees an average of 18 inches of snow per season, has recorded a trace in October; 4.4" in November; 2.3" in December; .4" in January; and a trace so far in February. This adds up to slightly more than 7.1" so far this season, or approximately 40% of normal. Through Tuesday, the most recent model guidance shows Amarillo seeing around .50" of snow, which means more ground to make up in the next 4-6 weeks.
We have seen colder than normal periods, like the one we are currently experiencing. The problem has been that the cold temperatures have been unable to sync with the moisture and deliver any big, state-wide winter storms. Western North Texas has seen some icing this season, but very little in the way of snow. More freezing rain and some sleet is expected for Northwest Texas again by Monday night-Tuesday. Snow will be limited to the Texas Panhandle region, though. Generally speaking, there has been a "bubble" over the southeastern 1/2 to 2/3rds of Texas. You can see the seasonal snowfall analysis from NOAA below.
Several of the storm tracks this winter have been favorable, but the systems have not been able to pull the cold air deep into the state before the moisture shuts down. This season has so far been the exception when compared to *most* other El Ninos which were preceded by a La Nina. One thing worth noting is that the El Nino was expected to develop this fall. While temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have been running above normal for several months, temperatures have to be above a certain theshold for three consecutive months. Just this month was NOAA able to upgrade the El Nino Watch to an El Nino Advisory.
Going forward, some more cold snaps are likely through March. You will probably want to wait before planting any frost sensitive plants, unless you plan on covering them. I will talk more about this in later discussions. As for winter weather outside the Texas Panhandle and Northwest Texas, there is always a potential for it into March. I saw several inches of snow in Wylie back in March of 2010, so never say never... Watch the video below. I wish I could say for sure one way or the other this year, but all we can do is wait and see. We still have some more weeks to get through...
One final thing is that, while Texas Storm Watch is based out of North Texas, the discussions are regarding the state as a whole - not just North Texas. At the start of the month, when I had mentioned that this part of the cycling weather pattern would be more conducive for some wintry precipitation, some thought I was talking specifically about the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was talking about the state in general, not necessarily this part of Texas. The recurring cycle theory is great for identifying whether a period of days will be warmer, drier, cooler, or wetter than normal. It is how we knew there would be an opportunity for some wintry weather for *parts* of the state. When it comes to the season as a whole, it becomes trickier as certain other factors can tip the scale. I hope this answered some questions you may have had. I try to be as transparent as possible, whether I get it right or get it wrong. Sometimes factors point toward one thing but something else happens for reasons that do not become clearer until after the fact. For the latest local weather information for your area, please visit the National Weather Service website. You can also find us on Facebook.