Monday, August 13, 2018

Texoma: La Niña, El Niño or Neither? Results for the 2010s

As I live in Wichita Falls, Texas which is part of the Texoma area, it's always important to know if the Pacific Ocean is in an El Niño or La Niña.  Both have very different results for the area.

I thought it would be interesting to go back and analyze all of the months (as of August 2018) in the 2010s and see if an El Niño, La Niña or neutral was the overall event for the decade.

NOTE:  Some of you might mention that the decade is not quite over which is of course correct.  However, I still think it's important to look back now and then once we reach the beginning of the 2020s we can analyze the entire decade past.

Let's begin with the raw data from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service.  Here is the chart from their data (data is provided for free with no copyright from the NWS or NOAA):

Click the chart to see it full (larger).

First notice the red and blue numbers.  The red numbers indicate that an El Niño was present in the Pacific Ocean during those months.  Conversely, the blue numbers indicate a La Niña present in the Pacific Ocean during those times.  Regular non-bold black numbers indicate a 'neutral' period where neither Pacific event was occurring.

We start at the beginning of the decade as we see red numbers indicating an El Niño.  This pattern brings Texoma above normal precipitation and cooler temperatures.  This pattern corresponds to the Great Christmas Eve Blizzard of '09, just days before the decade got underway.  

(For those of you very exact I realize that an official decade begins in the year '01 and ends in the tenth year however for general clear purposes we analyze the decade as 2010-2019).

We then quickly transitioned into a La Niña from June 2010 - March 2012.  This was the beginning of the Great Texoma Drought of the early '10s.  Afterwords we went into a neutral pattern which had no true effect of breaking the drought or the dry and hot pattern.  We had to wait until the next El Niño.

The next El Niño began in November 2014 and ended in May 2016.  Again, during this time it's usually cooler and wetter in Texoma.  And, during the month of May 2015 (during the heart of the El Niño we had 17.00" of rain [yes, exactly 17.00", I'm not rounding]).  That finally broke the drought.

Then we went into a brief La Niña from August 2016 - December 2016 followed by a brief neutral.

This was supposed to be the 'mother of all La Niña's' and even I and many other meteorologists and forecasters called it the 'Godzilla La Niña.'  Well it wasn't that bad at the time but the fact that another followed was certainly a problem.

We had another one soon after from October 2017 - March 2018.  This is called a "double-dip La Niña."  It indicates two in a row.

The current above normal temperature summer that we are experiencing along with lower than normal rainfall, is a result of this double-dip.  The long pattern of La Niña has culminated in producing a warmer than usual summer in Texoma.

For example we've had about 29 days of 100° or above temperatures and four days of 110° or above with a maximum high of 112° reached on three days, all of which were record highs.

So now we are going into an El Niño.  Of course we don't have confirmation data yet for the remainder of 2018 and 2019 but I bet in the end those numbers will be red indicating the pattern forecast was correct.

That means a total of two El Niño's so far in the 2010s and three La Nina's.

So what can we conclude for the decade so far?  I think it's fair and honest to say the 2010s will go down in Texoma history as the decade of drought.  And, it's all due to three rather intense La Niña's.

I hope this article answered some questions about why the weather was the way it was in Texoma during this decade.

Share with friends as they might find the data from the decade interesting.  The data is the same for everyone in the United States and even the world as it's based on readings of the Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperatures.  But, of course how the weather reacted to the events in the Pacific depends on your location.

If you have any questions please post them to the blog and I'll do my best to answer.

Have a great day friends.

Bryan W. Rupp