Maybe you’ve already heard that the current El Niño phenomenon in the eastern Pacific is one of the strongest ever recorded. So strong, in fact, that among weather-wonks, it’s being called “Bruce Lee”. Sea surface temperatures (SST) along the eastern Pacific Ocean around California and north to Alaska are all well above normal.
How warm is it? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the June-August average of SSTs in the Niño 3.4 region is 1.22°C ( 2.19°F) above normal (approx. 80.1 °F). August temps in this region rose by 3.71°F to 84 °F.
While that kind of ocean water sounds delightful for a beach vacation, all that very warm water exerts a powerful influence on the circulation of the atmosphere and — most importantly — on the weather in Texas.
The typical El Niño affects North America by bringing warmer winters to the northwestern and north-central states and somewhat warmer and dryer weather to the mid-Atlantic states. Colder and wetter weather move into the south central region (Texas) and the southeast.
This year’s “Bruce Lee” el Niño is predicted not to have too great an impact during autumn. However, as winter begins, NOOA predicts weather patterns will probably be consistent with an El Niño: above-normal temperatures are likely all across the northern states, and below-normal temperatures will be likely in south central states. NOAA puts it this way:
PROBABILITIES OF BELOW-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ACROSS THE SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS REACH OR EXCEED 50 PERCENT IN DJF, JFM, AND FMA 2016.
How cold will Texas get?
ERCOT forecasts Texas wintertime temperatures will range from 2.5°- 4° F below normal in the west to .5°- 1°F below normal in the east. ERCOT says that daytime highs will more likely be cooler than nighttime lows. Added chance for precipitation will likely keep insulating cloud cover in place at night.
Still, with colder (and wetter) weather on tap for Texas this winter, you will very likely spend more to heat your home. That means you will want your furnace to run at peak efficiency and that your home is both well-insulated and air sealed.
Your cost for energy could also rise. I mention this cautiously because while Texas relies on natural gas to generate electricity during the winter, northern states rely on natural gas for both electricity and heating. Though the northern US might enjoy warmer winter temperatures, there is always the possibility of a cold snap blowing across the Great Lakes into the northeast, and causing natural gas prices to spike.
If you are on a month-to-month plan, then it’s possible (but not certain) that you could see that reflected in one of your bills. Switching to a fixed-rate plan now as summer ends and rates falls can save you from some unpleasant wintertime shocks.
At any rate, you may want to add another sweater to this year’s holiday wishlist. NOAA is predicting that below normal temperatures could linger in Texas through April or even May.