A car is trapped in floodwaters in Buffalo Bayou near downtown Houston.
If you think August was a wet month in Texas, pick up your prize. Preliminary totals indicate that August averaged about 5.69 inches of rain statewide, in a tie with 1914 for the wettest August on record, according to figures from the State Climatologist office at Texas A&M University.
John Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M who also serves as State Climatologist, says the wet month was due to an atmospheric wind pattern that pumped lots of deep, moist tropical air into Texas.
The wet months could continue for a while, he notes.
“September and October are historically among the wettest months of the year in Texas, so if normal conditions continue, we will see several more inches of rain,” he explains.
“If a tropical storm or hurricane stalls over Texas – September is the peak month for such storms – then we would be at risk for serious flooding since most of the ground is already saturated.”
Texas has also had the wettest 24-month consecutive period in the state’s history, Nielsen-Gammon says.
The state has averaged 75.25 inches of rain over the past two years, breaking the previous record of 74.85 set in 1942.
The final numbers won’t be official for another few months. Nielsen-Gammon notes that August 2016 could end up either first or second all-time, but the 24-month record is secure. “That 24-month record might only last a month, though, if Texas has a wet September,” Nielsen-Gammon says.
Forecasters have predicted the development of a La Niña – when cooler than normal temperatures occur in the Central Pacific which in turn tend to affect weather worldwide – but it looks more and more likely that the La Niña will be marginal.
If a weak La Nina does develop, it likely means above normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation rates for November through March.
The warm conditions would probably not follow last year’s pattern, in which temperatures stayed relatively mild throughout the winter.
“Although the winter overall should be mild, La Niña allows very cold air to build up to our north. Every so often a powerful cold front will sneak down into Texas,” he notes.