CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Another change of season, another longer range outlook. Up front, I am no fan of long range, seasonal forecasts because they do not capture the nuances of the season. Rather, they lump months together and take an average, leading to numbers that may be misleading to the end user. Let's unpack...
NOAA released their winter outlook for the 2022-2023 season, suggesting a warmer and drier winter (DEC, JAN, FEB) in the south. The temperature and precipitation forecasts (below) are almost verbatim what a la nina winter tends to yield...
NOAA's outlook is highly reflective of a la nina pattern; something we've been in since 2020.
During a la nina, the jet stream tends to be ridged over high pressure in the Pacific, then dropping into the Pacific NW, delivering cold/damp weather to that part of the country. In contrast, el nino years have a much stronger sub tropical jet stream which brings moisture in from the Pacific, into/over the South.
As weather systems ride the jet stream, they cross the Rockies and lose a lot of moisture in the process. Coming in from the NW, by the time cold fronts reach South Texas, there often is not much moisture to work with, meaning rainfall production is limited.
During la nina years in the Coastal Bend, we will often get strong cold fronts that don't produce rain and deliver clear blue skies in their wake. With more sunshine after the front, temperatures are able to rebound more quickly than if there were a lot of cloud coverage, which tends to happen during el nino years.
Does the NOAA outlook mean we will be in for warm days all winter? Absolutely not. There will be strong cold fronts and we will likely observe a few freezes in the Coastal Bend. That's the problem with long range forecasts...you don't get the day to day details. We will also undoubtedly have rain episodes, even through the forecast is calling for drier than normal conditions.
Remember, we've been in a la nina since 2020 and since then, we've had some pretty gnarly winters despite the trend that la nina tends to give us warmer and drier conditions than average. In fact, the last 2 winters have been cooler than average in Corpus Christi. We had two significant freezes in both 2021 & 2022. They've also been drier than average.
It's South Texas. Enjoy the season as it is generally a pretty enjoyable time of year to be a resident in this part of the world. We will update with any and all significant changes the upcoming winter brings. And no, I do not know if it will snow here this year; that's impossible to predict on a seasonal basis.