Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Could 2014 Be a Drought-Buster for Texas?

An empty rain gauge is strapped to a fence post on the edge of a pasture this summer near Canadian, Texas

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

An empty rain gauge is strapped to a fence post on the edge of a pasture this summer near Canadian, Texas

In Spanish, El Niño means “the boy child.” But if El Niño predictions for late 2014 prove correct, winter rainfall in Texas could be anything but little.  The deceptively-named weather pattern generally brings rain to Texas. Lots of it.

El Niño occurs when warm water buried below the surface of the Pacific rises up and spreads along the equator towards America. It often causes storms that devastate parts of Latin America, Indonesia and Australia, but it could also bring relief to drought-stricken Texas.

“It tends to cause the jetstream to be farther south than normal, which means we may get more rain events, generally cool temperatures and lots of run-off, which would be good for reservoir levels,” John Nielsen-Gammen, Texas State Climatologist, tells StateImpact Texas.

Now, a new study from Stanford University gives the El Niño weather pattern a 76 percent chance of returning this year. What exactly does that mean?

If El Niño does form, Texas might see some wetter weather even before the winter months, Nielsen-Gammen says.

It could also mean a possibly weaker hurricane season for the Gulf of Mexico.

Too Early to Know for Sure

Climatologists are generally limited to predicting El Niño 6 months prior to its formation, due to what is called the “spring barrier.” But Stanford researchers believe they developed a model that allows projection of an El Niño event a whole year ahead.

Nielsen-Gammon says more time must pass in order to make a definite forecast.

“I’ve been telling people that signs are pointing towards the possibility of an El Niño, but it’s still too early to call,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

Texans have been disappointed by a no-show in the recent past. In 2012 forecasters said there was a good chance El Niño could bring relief from the drought, but the weather pattern never formed.


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