AUSTIN (KXAN) — In part three of our week-long “Summer Outlook,” our First Warning Weather team digs into another factor that will shape our summer weather.

As the current La Niña pattern enters a rare third year, Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans shows us how this could be yet another piece of the puzzle leading to a hotter summer.

Jud Partin researches La Niña cycles at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics.

“2008 and 2011 were two-year La Niña that hammered Texas,” Partin said.

To refresh your memory on what La Niña is, exactly: “El Niño, La Niña cycles are defined by ocean temperatures along the Equator in the tropical Pacific, which is a ways from Texas,” Partin said. “Generically, a La Niña event causes drier and warmer conditions here in Texas.”

After a ‘double-dip’ second year of La Niña in 2021, we are now in a rare third year of the phenomenon.

chart showing El Niña / La Niña cycle
We are entering a rare third year ‘triple dip’ of La Niña.

“A multi-year La Niña is pretty uncommon,” Partin said. “Less than about 20% of La Niñas are multi-year La Niñas.”

Because of that, we have limited data to draw from to see how it may impact this summer’s weather. The most recent time this happened, however, was the summer of 2000. That summer, the Barton Creek Greenbelt dried up, crowds flocked to Barton Springs, and heat-related emergencies sent medics scrambling.

A late-summer heat wave from August into early September brought 12 consecutive days of triple-digit heat at Camp Mabry. Six of those days were 107° or hotter, including Austin’s all-time record high of 112° on September 5, a number we also reached a decade later in 2011.

Graphic showing an extreme heat wave in late August, early September 2000.
Extreme heat during the summer of 2000.

Though La Niña tilts our odds toward hotter, drier weather, there are always exceptions. During the summer of 2021, our second-consecutive La Niña summer actually ended up being mild, and wet.

“So we’re in a bit of uncharted territory in terms of the effects and how it’s going to affect [us] specifically here in Texas, but [also] the event in general,” Partin said. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

With our ‘Summer Outlook’ series now showing that both the record-hot May and the ongoing La Niña pattern increase odds of a hotter, drier summer, on Thursday Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans examines what that may mean for drought conditions and wildfires.