COLLEGE STATION – The Texas state climatologist said an expected La Niña winter weather pattern would probably not emerge and there likely will be warmer and drier conditions on average into 2017.
Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist, College Station, said the Climate Prediction Center is now calling for temperatures in the tropical Pacific to be about half a degree below normal through the first few months of 2017.
Forecasts earlier in the year called for the emergence of a La Niña pattern going into fall, he said. But tropical Pacific temperatures did not cool off enough to meet the official criteria for a La Niña event. That means that the tropical Pacific is classified as neutral, neither excessively warm, such as with El Niño, or excessively cool, such as with La Niña.
“Persistent El Niño conditions were responsible for above-average rainfall in Texas over the past year,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “La Niña events typically favor warm and dry winters in Texas. But the Pacific is close enough to La Niña temperatures that this winter will still lean toward the warm and dry side.”
The forecast doesn’t mean there won’t be severe temperature gauge swings in both directions, Nielsen-Gammon said.
“These conditions usually lead to a few days getting really cold,” he said. “But there could also be temperatures in the 70s and 80s in the middle of winter for College Station. It’s only likely to be warm and dry on average, not every single day.”
Nielsen-Gammon said the influence of tropical Pacific waters on weather patterns in Texas is stronger in the southern portion of the state. He said strong, dry cold fronts could make portions of the state more vulnerable to wildfires, especially in areas where grass growth fueled by rain dries out.
“Dry, warm and windy is not a good recipe,” he said.