For over a year, East Texas has experienced a wet weather pattern. For each month in 2004, monthly rainfall exceeded the monthly average with the exception of only two months. For the year as a whole, the area had over 35 inches above the average annual rainfall. The trend of abnormally high rainfall appears to be continuing into 2005.
Here's a look at rain totals since 2004 for the Angelina County Airport near Lufkin compared to the average amounts:
|January 2004|| |
|February 2004|| |
|March 2004|| |
|April 2004|| |
|May 2004|| |
|June 2004|| |
|July 2004|| |
|August 2004|| |
|September 2004|| |
|October 2004|| |
|November 2004|| |
|December 2004|| |
|January 2005|| |
As of February 9, Lufkin had already received more than the monthly average for the entire month of February. The recent heavy rains have resulted in swollen rivers, high lake levels, and a saturated ground. This has led to the delay of construction projects, and some local loggers say they are losing money because they cannot get into the soggy forests to get their jobs done.
Many people have been asking what has caused this wet weather pattern over the last year and how much longer is it expected to continue. The answer to the cause of the wet weather is one than many folks will remember -- El Niño. In the mid to late 1990s, this weather phenomenon was blamed to have caused flooding rains and severe weather for much of the United States. Meteorologists and oceanographers who keep a close eye on El Niño say it has returned, although indications are it is weaker now than the El Niño from the 1990s.
Technically, El Niño is part of an oceanographic and atmospheric interaction called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. It is a disruption in the ocean-atmosphere system over the Pacific Ocean that can literally affect weather patterns across the globe. During El Niño, the ocean waters of the central and western Pacific warm above the normal sea surface temperatures. Conditions in the atmosphere over the Pacific also change resulting in changing atmospheric conditions across the Earth.
An El Niño event can lead to the following conditions: wet weather for the southern United States, flooding in Peru, drought in Indonesia, and drought in Australia.
For East Texas specifically, wet winters and stormy weather in the spring are associated with an El Niño pattern. With an ongoing El Niño, above average rainfall can be expected through the rest of the winter and into at least the early spring. Some studies have shown an early severe weather season can be linked to El Niño. The typical severe weather season for East Texas begins in March and runs through the end of May.
The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), the government agency responsible for making long range forecasts in the United States, is forecasting above average rainfall to continue through May. The CPC is forecasting near normal rainfall during the upcoming summer months.
While there is a great deal of uncertainty with long range forecasts, the KTRE Live Doppler 9 Weather Team will stay on top of the latest weather data and forecasts on KTRE TV 9 and here at ktre.com.
If you have any questions about El Niño or the current wet weather pattern in East Texas, e-mail the weather team at firstname.lastname@example.org.