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Newly released climate data shows Central Texas getting hotter and rainier

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 3:45 PM CDT
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The National Centers for Environmental Information released the new 30-year climate averages for the United States Tuesday and the changes show an increase in both the average rainfall and the average temperature. New data on a city-by-city basin in Central Texas is available from NOAA but all of the data used by KWTX is released from the National Weather Service in Fort Worth for the Waco Regional Airport. Buckle up for a bunch of numbers!

The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer...
The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer and wetter even though more freezing temperatures are expected in a year.(KWTX, NOAA)

Rainy Days Have Decreased, But Heavy Rainfall Days Are Increasing:

When talking about precipitation, the headline for the new climate data is that we’re expecting almost two-inches more per year. Our average yearly precipitation is up to 36.40″, an increase of 1.71″ from the previous normal of 34.69″. The near 5% increase in precipitation isn’t coming from rainier days but is coming from more extreme rainfall events.

The average numbers of days in a year with at least a trace of precipitation is down from 81.8 days to 80.2 days with June having the largest decrease in expected precipitation. The loss of one day of precipitation every year is offset by the increase in days with at least an inch of rain. The 1981-2010 averages stated we’d normally get about 10 days a year with at least one inch of rain. The 1991-2020 data shows we’re now averaging 11.4 days of at least one-inch of rain falling in a day.

The change in expected precipitation means that we’re now running a year-to-date rainfall deficit of 7.63″ (as compared to a 6.31″ deficit using the old data) but it doesn’t mean the current state of Central Texas’ drought is worse than it was a few days ago. Drought is measured not by a 30-year average but by data that goes back much further than 30 years. In fact, exceptional drought conditions look back 50 years to determine how bad a lack of rainfall has been.

What the new data does mean is that you might get more chances to enjoy dry weather outdoors, but rain is more likely to come down in buckets than a decade ago.

Freezes Are More Likely, But Daytime Temperatures Are Getting Warmer

Central Texas’ new range of average high temperatures is 58° to 98°, one degree higher than the old data showed. We’ve gone from 18 days with an average high of 98° to 26 days. The numbers of days with an average high of 57° or 58° was 34, but that is down to only 15 days since the lowest our average high gets is now 58° and not 57° like it was.

The new climate averages include the all-time high temperature record of 114° set on July 23rd, 2018 and the two hottest summers (when looking at the average high temperature) of 2011 and 2018. Despite this, the average number of 100° days in a year is unchanged at 24.2. The highest daily average temperature also remains unchanged at 98°, but we now have many more days with an average of 98° and fewer cooler days in the winter time too.

The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer...
The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer and wetter even though more freezing temperatures are expected in a year.(KWTX, NOAA)

Interestingly enough, we’ve seen an increase in the number of freezes a year. New climate data shows the average number of days with a freeze per year at 34.1, up from 32.8 and the lowest average low temperature is down to 35° from 36° with the coldest temperatures expected to come in mid-January and not late-December and early January.

The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer...
The new 30-year averages for Central Texas' weather has been released and the trend is warmer and wetter even though more freezing temperatures are expected in a year.(KWTX, NOAA)

Other Climate Odds and Ends:

The trove of data released today would take days to comb through and compare, but there’s a few other things worth pointing out too in addition to what’s above.

  • Thunderstorms are more likely! Although the average number of days with a trace of rain has fallen, the number of days with thunderstorms is up to 43.3, up from 42.4.
  • Fog is less likely with a small drop in days with dense fog from 13.9 days to 13.6
  • The change in fog could be explained by a decrease in humidity (if you could believe it!). The average dew point for the year is now 55.6° down from 56.5°.
  • The average wind direction of 190° (which is barely south-southwesterly) is unchanged but the average sustained wind is up from 10.0 MPH to 10.1 MPH.
  • Rainfall averages have increased but both June, September, and November are the only months where the expected amount of precipitation has decreased.
  • October has seen the biggest jump for rainfall. October’s average rainfall is now at 4.41″, up over a half-inch from the old 3.90″ average.
  • August remains the hottest month with an average monthly high of 97.1°, up from 96.8°.
  • September joins June, July, and August with an average monthly high temperature at or above 90°. September’s monthly average high is 90.8° and was previously 89.8°.
  • January remains the coldest month for morning lows but it’s gotten even colder. The previous average monthly low of 36.1° is now 35.8°. December isn’t as cold if that makes you feel better! The average monthly temperature (both high and low) is up from 48.3° to 49.2°. Tell Santa to pack the swimsuit.

A 30-year average has been used by the National Weather Service since the mid-1930s (when it was the National Weather Bureau) and covered the time period from 1901 to 1930. The data released today will be used through at 2030 with the next 30-year average expected at some point in 2031.

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