It’s VERY DRY in San Antonio now, but we are cautiously optimistic for what’s ahead

Forecasters are now more confident that a ‘strong’ El Nino will arrive by winter

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for a 95% of El Nino, with a 60% chance of it being a 'strong' El Nino. (Copyright 2023 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

This stretch of record-setting heat and drought has been grueling. It feels like it’ll never end. It will — and we have reason to be optimistic about what’s ahead.

The Climate Prediction Center is now calling for a 95% chance (up from 90%) of El Nino by December into February of 2024. In addition, there is growing confidence (60% chance) that it will be a ‘strong’ El Nino.

While it may not feel like it now, it’s possible that we’ll notice some pattern changes as early as this fall. However, it’s the winter and into early next year when El Nino is forecast to really take hold. What is El Nino? You can read more about it here.

Now for the disclaimer. Not all El Nino patterns bring heavy rainfall to Texas. In addition, it’s impossible to pinpoint when and where rain will fall. There’s no guarantee. Still, it gives us hope after what we’ve seen the past two years.

So, let’s put some numbers to it. We can look back to the most recent ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ El Nino years in San Antonio:

Recent strong El Nino years and the rainfall received during those years (Copyright 2023 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

In 1996, a La Nina year, San Antonio’s rainfall for the year totaled 17.8 inches. Then, El Nino kicked in by early 1997. Rainfall that year reached nearly 34 inches. By 1998 we were fully in El Nino and those who lived in San Antonio at the time remember what happened next. The flood of ‘98 wasn’t a direct effect of El Nino, but it’s notable that it took place in an El Nino year.

A similar situation occurred in 2015. El Nino made a return after a long-term drought. San Antonio suffered through a stretch of heat and drought from 2011 to 2014. Then, after a strong El Nino kicked in, rainfall in 2015 really took off. Sadly, we saw another deadly flood that year along the Blanco River.

Does this mean our drought will end with a flood? No. But, history tells us our odds go up for a heavy rain event during El Nino years. In the meantime, we’ll continue to battle through the heat.

Seasonal (3-month) sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific Ocean compared to the 1981-2010 average. Warming or cooling of at least 0.5˚Celsius above or below average near the International Dateline is one of the criteria used to monitor the El Niño-La Niña climate pattern. NOAA image, based on data from the Climate Prediction Center. (NOAA)

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.