El Niño into 2024: What that means for winter and spring

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a given for several months that we would be looking at an El Niño in the winter. The latest guidance suggests 99% certainty of El Niño from December through February. It won’t just be a regular El Niño either, there’s 60% odds it will be a “strong” El Niño. The stronger the El Niño, the more likely

Winter forecast

Typically we see the most predictable impacts from El Niño in Central Texas during the winter. Usually this means wetter and cooler weather.

The mid-August release of the winter forecast from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has odds in our favor for more rain this winter, but the temperature outlook is near normal.

Winter rainfall forecast (CPC)
Winter rainfall forecast (CPC)
Winter temperature forecast (CPC)
Winter temperature forecast (CPC)

Winter is usually our driest season with only 7.25″ in an average meteorological winter in Austin from December through February. Catching up on precipitation deficits that have grown through the year would do wonders for us heading into the warmer months next year.

Spring severe weather outlook

As each months El Niño forecast update comes in, we get a deeper look into the future. Those outlooks now take us into next spring. Meteorological spring runs from March 1 through May 31. The odds of El Niño continuing into next spring are at 78%.

While spring isn’t typically a season with a lot of El Niño influence in Central Texas, there are some correlations between the spring season and El Niño regarding severe weather.

You may remember that spring is our severe weather season in Central Texas. This loosely begins March 1 and continues through the first half of June. It’s usually our wettest period of the year and we get plenty of severe weather during that period…usually.

Looking at the left column below, the orange color indicates the decreasing frequency of tornadoes (top left) and hail (bottom left) during El Niño springs.

ENSO and severe weather (NOAA/Climate.gov)
El Niño (Left) vs La Niña (Right) and the relationship with Tornadoes (top) and Hailstorms (bottom). (NOAA/Climate.gov)

Generally speaking this means you can can expect fewer severe weather instances of tornadoes and especially hail next spring if El Niño continues as expected. This doesn’t mean no hail or tornadoes, just fewer occurrences.

As for next summer…so much of that will depend on how wet we are in the winter and spring. The wetter those seasons are, the wetter the soil is, which generally means it’s harder to warm up as excessively. It would still be hot and more humid, but not as many triple digits. Only time will tell.

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