El Niño forecast, but not fully developed yet

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Scientists at the Climate Prediction Center announced Thursday morning that Pacific Ocean temperatures are warmer than normal, continuing to signal a developing El Niño pattern. However, water temperatures and atmospheric conditions have not yet reached the threshold that would classify a fully developed El Niño.

It remains likely an El Niño pattern will still develop later this summer or fall, which is very good news for drought-stricken regions of Texas.

To understand what El Niño could bring this fall and winter, we take a look at what it has brought us in the past.

1997 was a devastating year in Central Texas weather. No one will forget the killer tornadoes on May 27, including the Jarrell EF-5. That year, the strongest El Niño on record developed. The Pacific ocean warmed to record levels, bringing Texas wetter and cooler weather.

El Niño patterns typically bring one storm after another, and heavy rain that Texas is usually desperate for.

GOING IN-DEPTH — ENSO ALERT SYSTEM

  • El Niño or La Niña Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for the development of El Niño or La Niña conditions within the next six months.
  • El Niño or La Niña Advisory: Issued when El Niño or La Niña conditions are observed and expected to continue.
  • Final El Niño or La Niña Advisory: Issued after El Niño or La Niña conditions have ended.
  • NA: ENSO Alert System is not active.

In June 1997, Lake Travis had one of its worst floods ever with water 75 feet higher than it is today, flooding lakefront neighborhoods. The pattern lasted into 1998, bringing more flash floods and rare January tornadoes.

FAQ: Climate Prediction Center’s El Nino FAQ

During the 2004 El Niño, more tornadoes touched down on two different days around Thanksgiving.

“All she could see was solid white, it was solid white,” said Michelle Hogan, who lives near the area hit. “She couldn’t see any neighborhood, any house or anything. It was just solid white.”

Flooding returned to the area as well, forcing some schools to cancel classes that week. It was the wettest year in more than a decade.

Our last El Niño in 2009 was, once again, “old reliable.” In October, it rained so hard Lake Travis went up one foot per hour, leveling out 12 feet higher after the storm.

“We’ve been waiting for this continued rain for so long,” LCRA Meteorologist Bob Rose said. “We’ve been seeing rain every four or five days in the area.”

That winter, Austin saw not one, but two rare snowfalls.

“Very gentle,” Austin resident Johnny Smith said. “I wasn’t expecting it to look like this actually. It puts a nice little effect to Austin you don’t usually see.”

It has been five years since our last El Niño. And, considering El Niños typically return on a 3-5 year cycle, we are due.

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