State climatologist: Texas has hottest December on record with climate change a contributing factor

Weather Blog

Temperature departure from normal. (Image: Southern Regional Climate Center)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon announced that Texas had its hottest December since at least 1889.

The official state record for previous warmest December was December 1933, at 53.3 degrees and once the data is finalized, December 2021 may go into the record books with an average state temperature above 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

In many of the states’ largest cities, temperatures were between 5-9 degrees warmer than average.

Temperature departure from normal. (Image: Southern Regional Climate Center)

In Austin (Camp Mabry) we experienced average temperatures more than 11 degrees warmer than the 30 year average and easily our warmest December on record.

Warmest December in Austin

Not only did Camp Mabry set the record for warmest average temperature, but also for warmest average high and warmest average low.

At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, records also fell. December 2021 will go into the record books as having the warmest average temperature and also the warmest average high temperature.

Nielsen-Gammon likened the warmth to the whole state shifting south. “Amarillo got Dallas’ normal temperatures, Dallas got Corpus Christi’s normal temperatures, and Austin got Brownsville’s normal temperatures,” he said.

While it was easily the warmest December since 1889 and therefore the warmest December during our period of comprehensive record-keeping, some question marks remain over whether December will come in as the warmest winter month on record.

The warmest winter month in February history was February 2017 back when temperatures across the state averaged 58.4 degrees. We won’t know whether December 2021 beats that until all the data for the month are analyzed and likely checked for quality control.

Meteorological winter runs from Dec. 1 through the end of February.

The 20th century average temperature for December in Texas is 46.9 degrees and Nielsen-Gammon believes that once data is finalized, the statewide average temperature for December 2021 will end up near 12 degrees above the 20th century average.

Typically, temperatures are not compared to the century average, but instead the 30-year average. With our warming climate the 30-year average temperature for Texas is roughly two degrees warmer than the 20th century average.

Based on very limited data, December 1889 was also a very hot one for Texas, but because record keeping was done differently and data was sparse, it’s not truly comparable.

As for the reason behind such incredible heat across Texas in December, certainly our La Nina winter pattern played a big role.

“Global warming didn’t cause this December to be record-setting, but it did contribute to the margin of victory,” said Nielsen-Gammon.

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