What’s happening with El Niño? LCRA forecaster has an unexpected answer

El Niño, after looking fairly likely for months to make an appearance this year, will probably not appear in its full majesty after all, according to Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose.

“Recent observations and forecasts now indicate the develop of El Niño is not nearly as certain as it was just a month ago,” Rose said in a video blog entry. A National Climate Prediction Center update strikes a similar tone, putting the odds of an El Nino forming at less than 50/50.

El Niño is a weather pattern in which warmer than normal ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific tend to bring wetter, cooler and more unsettled weather to Central Texas.

“While sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific remain much warmer than normal, there has been no engagement between these warm waters and the atmosphere up above,” Rose said. Therefore, long-range models have backed away from an El Niño forecast.

“The latest outlook for summer and fall calls for a pattern of near to slightly above normal rainfall,” Rose said, adding – and speaking to the fear that lurks in the hearts of all Central Texans – that “summer temperatures look to be moderately hot, but not record-setting.”

FORECAST: Oppressive humidity coupled with heat Friday, storms possible by Sunday

Friday’s forecast for Austin: A wretched mix of heat and humidity will send “feels-like” temperatures soaring well past 100 degrees across the Austin area, bringing the sort of oppressive heat typically associated with the Gulf Coast for the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

The National Weather Service’s computer models show the heat index (which factors in humidity with air temperatures) hitting 105 in Austin proper. Forecasters are warning folks with health problems to limit their time outside because of the heat.

Not even the higher elevations of the Hill Country will see much of a break from the sticky, sweaty heat as the heat index is expected to hit 100 in Burnet and Kerrville.

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“It’s gonna be hot, it’s gonna be humid,” said Orlando Bermudez, a meteorologist with the weather service. “Tomorrow, we’re looking at the same weather conditions.”

So it’ll be sweaty. And it’ll be hot. And it’s gonna feel like summer.

However, come late Saturday, things may actually get wet. Chances for showers and storms will begin to increase for the Hill Country as a cold front approaches the area. Storms will spread across the area Sunday and into Monday, with the best shot at rain coming Sunday night.

“The models are indicating that the heaviest rains are going to be across the Rio Grande, not I-35,” Bermudez added.

Here’s a breakdown of the weekend, courtesy of the weather service:

Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 94. Heat index values as high as 105. Mostly cloudy at night, with a low around 77.

Saturday: Partly sunny, with a high near 95. Heat index values as high as 104. Also mostly cloudy at night, with a low around 76.

Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1 p.m. High near 92, low around 70. Showers and thunderstorms likely at night with rain chances at 60 percent. Some of the storms could be severe.

Memorial Day: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 84. At night, forecasters call for a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms with a low around 68.

Tuesday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, slipping to a 30 percent chance at night.

Chances for rain will persist for the rest of the week.

Keep tabs on the weather all weekend long, whether by the grill or at the lake, by downloading our weather apps for iPhone and Android. 

How many hurricanes will form this summer? The government has a forecast

 

The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1 and you can expect between five to nine hurricanes to form, which is a little above the average according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Forecasters with NOAA, which just released its official hurricane forecast, “predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher),” according to a statement posted on the NOAA web site.

The forecast includes Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed unusually early in April.

The average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, and three of which become major ones. The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, which had 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major ones.

Hurricanes can devastate the Gulf region, as Katrina, Rita and Ike did in years past, but they tend not to hit Central Texas in the same way. Here, the worry tends to be storms that spin off the periphery of hurricanes. Those storms can, in turn, lead to high winds, tornadoes and heavy rainfall that causes the top weather risk in the region: flooding.

The hurricane forecast calls for a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Niño, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in the statement.

As to one of the key questions – whether a hurricane will devastate any coastal communities – the forecast is silent. After all, as a wise man once said, predictions are difficult, especially about the future.

 

El Niño’s return could mean a relatively calm hurricane season, wetter-than-normal Austin weather

 

This hurricane season is likely to be a relatively calm one, thanks to the return of everyone’s favorite weather pattern: El Niño.

Forecasters with AccuWeather are predicting 10 named storms, with five projected to become hurricanes. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms.

“The big factor is going to be the fact that we now believe El Niño will come on board some time during the summer and will continue all the way through the rest of the hurricane season,” AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said in a statement this week.

Other hurricane projections are set to follow soon: one from Colorado State University, the other from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration some time in May.

According to AccuWeather, an El Niño – a weather phenomenon that includes warmer-than-normal surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific – “typically causes episodes of strong westerly winds in the tropical Atlantic, which inhibit the development of storms.”

AccuWeather is forecasting that the El Niño is likely to materialize in late summer or fall. In Central Texas, that would probably mean cooler and wetter weather. El Niño is not the only weather pattern to affect Central Texas, but it does tend to make things a bit rainier.

In 2015, the “Godzilla El Niño” that developed in the fall drove the second-wettest year on record. That El Niño gave way to a La Niña, which is basically El Niño’s bizarro twin – cooler equatorial Pacific waters resulting in warmer and drier Central Texas weather. Even as La Niña was fading, it ushered in the warmest winter and warmest three-month start to a year on record in Austin.

Don’t expect El Niño to cool things down much in the near future. But if it does materialize, and it does wrestle hurricane season to a standstill, expect to see a lot more of this:

Insurer asks: How do Austin metro counties rank among stormiest in Texas?

Insurer asks: How do Austin metro counties rank among stormiest in Texas?

Central Texas took another beating from severe weather this past weekend, especially the Lake Travis area in western Travis County that saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud forming over the lake.

RELATED: Lake Travis receives brunt of Sunday storms

According to Travis County sheriff’s officials and neighbors, a tornado hit the Village of Point Venture on Lake Travis, tearing 50-year-old trees out of the ground in a nearby park and damaging property, including a golf course and restaurant. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Only a few days earlier, a line of strong thunderstorms pelted Central Texas, producing widespread rainfall amounts of an inch to 1.5 inches.

The insurance company Allstate recently analyzed its own property-claims data and compiled a list of the 25 stormiest counties in Texas. The insurer identified its customer areas with highest frequencies of wind and hail, and lightning-related homeowner property damage claims from 2012 through 2016.

Among those Allstate customers reporting the highest frequency of wind and hail claims, Travis County ranked 15th out of the top 25; Hays County came in 17th; and Williamson was 23rd. Waco’s McLennan County was tucked in between Travis and Hays at 16th.

Allstate also looked at customers reporting the highest frequency of lightning claims and Williamson made the top 10 at 9th place; Hays ranked 11th; and Travis was 19th. Brazoria County on the Gulf Coast was in between Williamson and Hays at 10th.

 

Here’s the complete list of highest frequency of wind and hail claims:

1. Collin
2. Bexar
3. Hidalgo
4. Randall
5. Bell
6. Dallas
7. Tarrant
8. Denton
9. El Paso
10. Webb
11. Ellis
12. Kaufman
13. Johnson
14. Lubbock
15. Travis
16. McLennan
17. Hays
18. Montgomery
19. Harris
20. Parker
21. Fort Bend
22. Smith
23. Williamson
24. Midland
25. Brazoria

Here’s the complete list of highest frequency of lightning claims:
1. Smith
2. Montgomery
3. Jefferson
4. Kaufman
5. Parker
6. McLennan
7. Ellis
8. Johnson
9. Williamson
10. Brazoria
11. Hays
12. Denton
13. Harris
14. Fort Bend
15. Lubbock
16. Bell
17. Collin
18. Tarrant
19. Travis
20. Bexar
21. Galveston
22. Dallas
23. Webb
24. Hidalgo
25. Cameron

 

Could overnight storms in Central Texas mean the end of winter?

A Union Pacific train derailed early Monday morning February 20, 2017 on Texas Highway 79 North of Thrall, TX. Severe thunderstorms and high winds may have caused the multiple cars to derail. Railroad crews will be on the scene throughout the day to remove the damaged cars. The remaining train was cleared and continued northward. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A Union Pacific train derailed early Monday on U.S. 79 north of Thrall. Severe thunderstorms and high winds may have caused the multiple cars to derail. Railroad crews will be on the scene throughout the day to remove the damaged cars. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The storms that blew through late Sunday into Monday morning were yet another example of how spring has probably arrived in Central Texas — which could be a mixed blessing.

Storms like the one that probably woke you up last night are unusual for this time of year, said Troy Kimmel, a University of Texas meteorologist and instructor. Storm season typically starts weeks from now in spring, which arrives March 20, according to the astronomical calendar. But last night’s storm seems to be the clincher in the theory to which thermometers have been attesting: Winter has already come and gone in Central Texas.

“It looks like winter is over,” Kimmel said. “These temperatures are what we expect to see a month down the road.”

This week’s forecast bolsters that notion. The National Weather Service expects clear skies as high temperatures rise into the mid-80s by Thursday and remain in the 70s at least through Saturday. The last freeze was in early January. Of the 50 days since 2017 started, 35 have topped 70 degrees at Camp Mabry. Monday, whose daytime high should be in the mid-70s, will be nearly 10 degrees warmer than the norm of 66 degrees and much higher than the average temperature, which is skewed by a few unusually cold days in the past, of 56 degrees.

So break out the flip-flops, but be prepared to pull the trash can out of the road after middle-of-the-night storms.

And be prepared for downpours.

Forecasting an entire season is notoriously tricky — as a wise man once noted, predictions are difficult, especially about the future — and Central Texas just went through the kind of La Niña season that is typically drier than normal. The La Niña brought a slightly drier winter, said Bob Rose, a Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist, but the La Niña also ended early this month.

Monday morning’s storm was surprising in part because the moisture level in the atmosphere suggested something a less intense, Kimmel said. But the atmospheric instability from the system that came out of the Pacific — a particularly “dynamic” system, Kimmel said — was like a hot pepper that gave a pot of chili an extra kick. One result was storm damage across Central Texas, mainly from straight-line winds. The Weather Service has confirmed tornado damage in San Antonio and is investigating potential tornado damage in Williamson County.

“If we have system like this one a month or two down the road, we could have some very severe weather,” Kimmel said. He added: “Our severe season seems to already be here.”

Storms passing through Austin metro area, heading southwest

Morning rain obscures the Austin skyline along the Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Ralph Barrera
Morning rain obscures the Austin skyline along the Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Ralph Barrera

10:30 a.m. update: A series of storm cells were passing through the Austin metro area on Monday, traveling southwest through eastern Travis County and into northern Hays County.

In the past hour alone, the storms dropped nearly 0.7 inch of rain in Webberville near the Travis-Bastrop county line and about 0.32 inch of rain at Dry Creek near Elroy, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority. Almost a quarter-inch of rain has fallen near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Earlier: Chances of thunderstorms will persist all day Monday with their likelihood growing to 50 percent Monday night.

The National Weather Service has forecast a possibility of rain and storms everyday through Friday. For Monday, the high is expected to be around 90 and the low around 73.

Throughout the day, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico could turn into storms or downpours especially as temperatures rise, the weather service said. Winds could gust up to 30 mph.

The Austin area did see some rains on Sunday as scattered showers moved through the area Sunday evening.

The highest recorded total, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, was seen south of Dripping Springs, where 0.76 inches of rain fell. Near Pflugerville, 0.34 inches of rain fell.

Through Friday, highs should remain in the low 90s and temperatures should bottom out each night in the mid-70s.

MondayForecast

 

Chance of rain Monday afternoon; heavier rains expected Tuesday

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Monday forecast for Austin: Rain returns to the forecast as the National Weather Service calls for a 40 percent chance of storms, mainly after 2 p.m. The scattered showers could include gusty winds of up to 40 mph, forecasters say.

After six consecutive days of triple-digit high temperatures, Monday’s heat will peak only near 99, forecasters say. But persistent humidity brought in by the southeast winds will push the heat index value, or the “feels like” temperature, to about 105.

Meanwhile, dry air and southerly winds of 10 to 15 mph in the Rio Grande plains on Monday mean another day of elevated fire weather conditions in which brush and grass fires may spread quickly if they occur, the weather service says.

The big day for rain is Tuesday. As a high pressure system moves west, it will surrender its grip on Central Texas and allow unstable air from the east to generate storms and deliver cooler temperatures.

Thunderstorms are likely mainly after 8 a.m. as rain chances ramp up to 60 percent. Daily rainfall amounts between a quarter-inch and a half-inch are possible in some locations, the weather service says.

Through Wednesday, cumulative rainfall totals of up to 3 inches across Central Texas will be possible. The weather service says relatively dry soils should minimize the threat of flash flooding. The risk for storms should decrease by Thursday, with only a few showers along and east of Interstate 35, forecasters say.

Here’s the outlook for the rest of the work week, according to the weather service:

  • Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 95. South wind 5 to 10 mph. Mostly cloudy at night, with a low around 77. South wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Thursday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8am. Partly sunny, with a high near 96. South wind 5 to 10 mph. Mostly cloudy at night, with a low around 77. South southeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Friday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 8am. Partly sunny and hot, with a high near 98. South southwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Mostly cloudy at night, with a low around 77.

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Flash flood watch for Austin metro area extended to Friday morning

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Wednesday forecast for Austin: Central Texas, build your arks now.

A flash flood watch has been extended until Friday morning for the Austin metro area, the National Weather Service says.

Heavy rainfall is expected in Central Texas beginning Wednesday through Thursday night, with anticipated widespread rainfall totals between 3 and 5 inches over the next two days, according to forecasters. Some locations could see as much as 10 inches in that same period, the weather service says.

With many parts of Central Texas saturated from previous rains this week and most of the region’s streams and rivers at elevated levels, any heavy rainfall will likely result in rapid flash flooding.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding, the weather service says. Residents in the affected areas should monitor media reports and weather forecasts and be prepared to take action if flash flood warnings are issued.

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Meanwhile, Wednesday morning commuters need to watch out for patchy dense fog until 8 a.m. Areas from the eastern edge of the Hill Country to east of the Interstate 35 corridor face limited visibility of a quarter-mile or less, the weather service says.

Once the fog subsides, the chances for showers and thunderstorms producing heavy rainfall will ramp up. For Wednesday, rainfall amounts between ¾ inch and 1 inch are possible during the day and into the evening, forecasters say.

According to the weather service, it’s more heavy rain in the forecast for the rest of the work week and the weekend:

  • A cold front on Thursday is expected to arrive in the Austin metro area, dropping daily temperatures and generating strong storms that could produce heavy rainfall throughout the day and night.
  • Friday’s outlook anticipates another day with a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms with temperatures ranging from around 67 to 81 degrees.
  • On Saturday, the chance for storms persists at 60 percent as north-northeast winds keep daily temperatures cooler below 80 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.
  • By Sunday, the forecast includes a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms but sunshine could return as temperatures peak near 84.

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Scattered showers Tuesday but heavy rains expected Wednesday, Thursday

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Austin forecast for Tuesday: Some isolated showers and thunderstorms in Central Texas this Tuesday morning could become more scattered across the Hill Country and the Interstate 35 corridor later in the day, the National Weather Service says. Rainfall amounts will be mainly less than a quarter-inch, forecasters say.

The weather service said the Austin metro area and the Hill Country could see significant rainfall Wednesday and Thursday, adding an additional 3 to 6 inches in an already saturated area.

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Because the ground in the Austin metro area remains soaked from heavy rainfalls last week, any additional rain could trigger flash flooding, the weather service says.

Tuesday’s outlook calls for a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 7 a.m., forecasters say. But rain chances creep up to 50 percent in the evening under mostly cloudy skies. Up to a quarter-inch in new rainfall could occur, the weather service says. South-southeast winds of 5 to 10 mph will deliver moisture from the Gulf that will keep the air humid and temperatures above 70 degrees at night.

The weather service expects a very rainy week ahead:

  • On Wednesday, showers and thunderstorms are likely and will produce heavy rainfall. The chance of precipitation is 70 percent and rainfall amounts between ¾ inch and 1 inch are possible. Thunderstorms are expected to continue at night.
  • Thursday’s outlook also calls for a 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms that will produce heavy rainfall as a cold front pushes through Central Texas, sinking daily temperatures about 10 degrees lower. Heavy rain will continue at night.
  • On Friday, showers and thunderstorms again are likely to produce heavy rain during the day and into the evening. North-northeast winds around 5 mph become calm in the evening but help keep the nighttime low temperature to a cool 65 degrees.
  • Saturday will be yet another day with at least a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Rain chances ease slightly to 40 percent but skies will remain mostly cloudy.
  • Sunday’s forecast also calls for a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, but sunshine is expected to return later in the day as temperatures climb to a high near 83.

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