ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Winter weather this year could have the signature of El Niño influence, according to the latest outlook from The Weather Channel (TWC). Here in the Big Country, we’ll likely get some above average temps around Christmastime.
A strong El Niño event is still favored this winter, and it shows up in the three-month winter outlook. Typically, conditions are warmer and drier in the northern US, and a bit cooler and wetter in the southern US.
Below is the latest three-month temperature outlook from TWC:
Remember, this is a three-month temperature trend, so there will be periods of warmer or colder days than what is shown above. Overall, this set up holds true to the classic El Niño set up.
The reason the majority of the US is trending above average is because El Niño conditions will not settle in right away. Winter is looking to be off to a warmer than average start in December, especially from the Northern Plains through the Great Lakes and the Northeast.
You can see that on the December Temperature Outlook:
For the Christmas season here in West Texas, temperatures will be pretty close to what we normally see for that time of year with slightly above average conditions. For the northerners where it’s usually cold and snowy for Christmas, they could still be seeing mild to warm temperatures.
The cooler air will begin to settle in to start the new year. As we all know, we have some sort of bizarre winter weather event to start the year. Unfortunately, this is when El Niño will really begin to ramp up.
Here’s how temperature trends are expected to look to kick off the New Year:
As mentioned, a staple of El Niño is colder and wetter conditions for the southern US in the heart of the winter, and that’s exactly what is expected to start 2024. If this holds true, we could see an increase in chances for snow and ice.
For the last full month of winter, February, we can expect conditions rise to slightly above average here, but should be right where we normally are temperature wise overall. The rain and snow chances are trending upward due to the effects of El Niño.
Here is how El Niño Could Impact Winter Weather this year and its effect on past snow seasons:
For us here in Texas, from the Panhandle over to the DFW area, El Niño essentially has a direct effect on us here. We tend to receive MORE snow during El Niño, and also tend to have our SNOWIEST season during the same period.
Another thing to take note of is that El Niño is NOT the only influence during the winter season. There are a couple ingredients that go into the perfect dish for this upcoming season. The first up is the Greenland Block. It is, essentially, a high-pressure area near Greenland.
That high pressure area tends to block the west-to-east flow of the jet stream, forcing it to take a sharp southward dive into the eastern U.S bringing colder air. Its development is difficult to forecast months in advance so we don’t know what will actually happen until a few weeks out.
If the Greenland Block sets up frequently during a strong El Niño, parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic can have a colder, snowier winter.
The last key wild card that’s difficult to predict months in advance is the Polar Vortex. When the vortex weakens, the cold air usually trapped in the Arctic can spill out into parts of Canada and the US.
As seen above, the jet stream becomes more blocked with sharp, southward meanders, sending more persistent cold air southward toward the mid-latitudes.
The last time this occurred was the historic 2021 February Freeze in the Lone Star State, which was actually during La Niña a period that’s normally warmer and drier for us.
If these factors all align, we could see a pretty active winter season. The good thing is we still have a solid month or two before we have to start worrying about the snow and ice that may or may not even happen.
For now, continue to enjoy this lovely fall weather we’ve been having as temperatures will begin to warm back up later this week!