La Nina holds. That’s not good news for San Antonio’s drought situation

Drought will likely persist through the winter

Difference from average water temperatures in September of 2022, as compared to 1985-1993. Courtesy of Climate.gov. Data: Coral Reef Watch (climate.gov)

You don’t need me to tell you how dry it’s been. At this point, everyone is keenly aware of our situation and we’re all praying for rain.

So, let me preface this by letting you know I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer”, but with La Nina holding for the 3rd winter in a row, it likely stays dry right through the winter.

By now, you’ve probably heard plenty about El Nino and La Nina, but for those who are new to the terms, here’s a quick synopsis.

It all starts out in the Pacific Ocean. Trade winds, which blow east to west, push warm surface water toward Asia. If the winds are strong enough, they cause cool water to surface in the Eastern Pacific. With this affecting wind and rainfall patterns across the tropics, the changes result in a cascade of effects around the globe. El Nino and La Nina switch back and forth irregularly, doing so every two to seven years. Locally, La Nina typically means a drier and warmer winter. La Nina also (usually) promotes a busier-than-normal hurricane season.

The Winter Outlook calls for San Antonio to likely be below normal when it comes to precipitation.
The forecast calls for above-normal temperatures in San Antonio this winter.
NOAA calls for drought in South Texas to continue or worsen this winter.

That leads us to the issues we’re seeing this year. The tropics didn’t get overly active for various other reasons (keep in mind that all of these rules are not hard and fast and there are plenty of nuances). So, South Texas missed out on any tropical moisture. Now, as we head into winter, the prospects for rain aren’t great. All the forecasts call for drier, warmer, and more drought. This means we could very likely set the record for the driest calendar year on record at the San Antonio International Airport.

One last thing to keep in mind — All it takes is one event. In the winter of 2021, Texas saw one of its worst winter storms in decades. That happened in a La Nina winter. It went against convention, with extreme cold and precipitation. So, as I said earlier, these are not hard and fast rules. Generalized forecasts going out several months are never perfect, but we should prepare for drier-than-normal conditions going into Spring 2023. Hang in there. El Nino will come back and we’ll see rainy days again.


About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.