AUSTIN (KXAN) — When we look at the impacts of La Niña here in Central Texas, those impacts generally tie in with the weather we experience in the winter and the spring.
Winter La Niña’s are typically warmer and drier and in the spring La Niña has been shown to bring more tornadoes and hail for Central Texas.
This was a record hot summer for the Lone Star State, during our third year of La Niña.
So how much did La Niña contribute to our hot summer and what could La Niña mean for next summer?
La Nina impacts on summer
Historically when La Niña was underway during the months of May-July there was only a minimal level of warming for Texas.
However, if you look at the years when La Niña was underway in the winter…it had a much greater impact on warming the temperature the following spring into summer according to NOAA’s ENSO BLOG. This is what happened this year of course…we had La Niña last winter and it was followed by a hot summer.
Why would a La Niña winter have a delayed impact on a Texas summer? It turns out the drier and warmer winters that typically come with La Niña in Texas help set the stage for hotter summers to develop.
The drier the ground is in the winter and early spring, the easier it is to heat up in the summer, which dries it out further, which then exacerbates the warming.
Not the whole story
The data suggests La Niña winters are responsible for up to 0.5º C of warming in the following Texas summer – but the summer of 2022 was 2.1ºC above average, suggesting that climate change and other influences also played a part in adding more heat to the state.
Another thing to realize is that this connection doesn’t happen every time. We had a La Niña winter 2020-2021 and yet summer 2021 was wetter and cooler. Summer 2021 may have been more of an anomaly, though. One study looked at the 10 most extreme Texas heatwaves and found that eight of them had La Niña occurring the previous winter.
What about next summer?
La Niña is expected to continue through this winter and possibly into early next spring.
The latest ENSO forecast from the Climate Prediction Center expects La Niña conditions to be favored through the January-March timeframe before flipping to ENSO Neutral during the February-April period of 2023.
For the all important winter season of December-February, there’s a 65% chance of La Niña conditions continuing.
Another La Niña winter? If that results in another period of warmer and drier weather in Texas as it typical with La Niña winter’s in Texas then…you guessed it…this could set us up for another warmer than average summer next year.
Of course, next summer we’re not expecting La Niña conditions to be ongoing, but if the soil is drier after a warmer and drier winter it might be enough to make for another hot summer for Central Texas.