Feb 12, 2024 - News

La Niña could make Texas drier

Probability of El Niño or La Niña
Data: NOAA; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Our rainy interlude could be winding down, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issuing a La Niña watch, indicating that the current strong El Niño may be headed for the exits.

Why it matters: The scorching 2011 drought that led to devastating wildfires in Bastrop County and record drops in Central Texas' water supply coincided with a La Niña.

Meanwhile: We're still recovering from the pounding heat and dry conditions of last summer.

  • Currently lakes Travis and Buchanan, the chief reservoirs of Central Texas, are 42% full, according to the LCRA.
  • Much of Travis, Williamson and Hays counties, and the Hill Country, are experiencing drought conditions.

Zoom in: The El Niño still underway features milder-than-average ocean waters in the tropical Pacific and associated shifts in the atmosphere. There are increasing signs that a transition is afoot.

  • A "watch" means that conditions are favorable for the development of La Niña within the next six months.
  • In its new forecast discussion, NOAA estimates that by the fall there's a 77% chance of a La Niña developing.

Between the lines: La Niña conditions tend to favor drought along the southern tier of the Lower 48 states.

What they're saying: Meteorologists with the National Weather Service office covering Austin say La Niña drives up the "likelihood of returning to drier, warmer-than-normal conditions in late 2024."

  • "In Texas, La Niña can be tough on us," Chris Suchan, the chief meteorologist at San Antonio NBC affiliate WOAI, wrote on X. "Need to make the most of El Nino next 3 - 5 months before it fades."

The big picture: The added ocean heat and its release to the atmosphere associated with El Niño has provided an extra boost to global average temperatures, on top of the human-caused global warming trend.

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