FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – An August prediction of snowy Texas and dry California is playing out so far this November. Snowfall is already hitting the Lone Star State and California’s autumn fire catastrophe has been playing out for the last several days out west.
This number keeps counting upward: the last time the DFW Airport recorded one inch of snow or more: 1,348 days.
· The number of sunspots is down, part of a natural 11-year cycle that is currently in a downward trend.
· This winter appears it may be an El Nino ‘Modoki’ winter.
· Could be devastating for California and its fire season
· Raises the stakes for snow events in north Texas.
The last 1” (or more) snow at DFW happened on March 5, 2015. That snow was actually the after-midnight amount of a 3.5” snow event that started on March 4.
In August, CBS 11 Meteorologist Jeff Ray discussed the reasons he was predicting the scenario that is currently playing out.
The first involves the Solar Sun Spot cycle. The number of sunspots is down, part of a natural 11-year cycle that is currently in a downward trend. This last July the sunspot number was 1.6, the least since the last downward cycle in August of 2009. The fewer the sunspots the less energy output of the sun and there is a good case to be made that fewer sunspots mean colder winters.
A more consistent driver of our seasonal weather is the ENSO cycle. This is a naturally-occurring cycle in the equatorial Pacific where areas of warm and cold water (and changes in air patterns) move back and forth over the Pacific basin. This winter appears to be an El Nino’ winter. On average, El Nino winters bring more snow to north Texas than winters where conditions are neutral or in the opposite pattern La Nina.
As Ray mentioned back in August, an early prediction of the intensity of El Nino (and how deeply it affects us) can be tricky. This year, however, the prediction appears to be sound. This year’s El Nino is actually turning out to be the forecasted El Nino Modoki. “Modoki” is a Japanese word sort of meaning “almost.” The equator sea surface temperatures don’t span from the central Pacific all the way to South America. Instead, cool water resides just offshore of Ecuador and Peru. You can see the difference between an average El Nino and El Nino Modoki below:
What is the difference between the two in regards to our weather? More precipitation in north Texas in a Modoki version:
As we’re seeing now, this is devastating for California and its fire season. It is also raising the stakes for snow events in north Texas as we have already seen. With a forecast of a colder-than-normal winter and above-normal precipitation, the odds increase that — as the number of winter-precipitation events increase over north Texas with colder temperatures — the better the odds of snow hitting the DFW Airport.
The chance of an El Nino Modoki is slippery proposition to forecast: they are rare and the prediction science on these rather new.
With a dearth of snow in the Metroplex over the last two winters, the white stuff appears to be in the cards this time.