Sept. 29. 2015
by Evelyn Browning-Garriss, climatologist and author of The Browning Newsletter
The good news for Texas and the South has been the quiet Atlantic hurricane season. No one wants to see a return to the bad ol’ days of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bad news has been that the same shearing winds from the El Niño that have blocked hurricanes have blocked all tropical moisture to the Central and Western Gulf – it’s been a horribly dry summer. Instead, the blocked tropical storms and rainfall drift up the Atlantic, and, as we are currently seeing, occasionally bring rainfall to the East Coast.
Back in mid-July, only 35 percent of the lower 48 states were dry or in drought, now it is back to over half of the US. Texas had been awash in floodwater, with no areas left in drought, now 59 percent of the state is dry. More than 60 percent of the South is stressed. When added to the growing drought in the West, it has been extremely worrisome for agriculture, particularly ranching.
The longer days of summer increase heat in the Northern Hemisphere. By July, most northern land masses are at their hottest. Water heats slower, so northern oceans reach their peak in early September. This means the shearing tropical winds generated by the tropical El Niño are furthest north in early September, covering the entire Gulf of Mexico. They began to retreat south by mid-September, meaning they stopped blocking tropical rainfall from flowing into Texas and the South. This may allow heavy tropical rainfall to hit East Texas and the South by early October. Historically these areas get good rainfall in mid-October and the rainfall spreads through Texas in November.
With a strong El Niño, history suggests a cooler wetter winter throughout the southern tier of states. It also usually brings more rain to California, but not enough to end the current statewide drought. Even so, it may be hard to hear the patter of rain through the cheering from US ranchers and farmers. – EBG
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