AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans took an in-depth look at some things to expect in the forecast this summer — from potential water restrictions because of dropping lake levels to the threat of wildfires in Central Texas.

That’s our focus of KXAN’s weekend read.

Read David’s full Summer Outlook reports using the links below.

Dropping lake levels could mean water restrictions soon

Lake Travis has lost more than 600 million gallons of water a day because of record May heat and unusually dry weather patterns.

Even if you don’t swim or boat on Lake Travis, low lake levels can still affect you since the Highland Lakes supply drinking water for more than 1 million Central Texans.

Austin Water confirmed stage one restrictions would be enacted if the joint storage in Lakes Travis and Buchanan drop below 1.4 million acre-feet before June 1 — making them the first water restrictions in Austin since Sept. 2018.

Graph showing lake levels declining over the last two weeks, set to drop to levels that would trigger water restrictions before June 1.
Lake Travis levels declining over the last two weeks, projected to drop below 1.4 million acre-feet of water before June 1 — the trigger level for Austin Water restrictions.

Does a hot, dry May guarantee a hot summer?

This record hot, very dry first half of May is due to an unusual weather pattern for this time of year. Typically in May, there are bouts of severe weather, heavy rain and flash flooding — causing May to be, on average, our wettest month of the year.

But this May, the storm track has been much farther north, with the ridge of high pressure typically seen in July and August, building early.

KXAN’s research showed a hot May does not guarantee a hot summer, but two of Austin’s hottest May months on record did precede two of Austin’s hottest summers.

A hot May does correlate to a hot summer
Two of Austin’s hottest summers on record came after two of Austin’s hottest months of May on record.

While looking at previous weather patterns gives us clues about this summer’s weather, many more factors than just a hot month of May will shape this summer’s weather.

What will a third consecutive year of La Niña mean for 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.

As a quick refresher, La Niña is a term for a weather pattern that causes changes in ocean temperature and severe weather conditions. It is the colder counterpart of El Niño.

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

What to expect with drought status, wildfire threat

With several fires burning across Texas, the Wildland Fire Preparedness was raised to a level five — the highest on the scale — making all their statewide resources available to respond to fires.

Drought conditions have already deteriorated significantly since Jan. across Texas, and if we see a hotter, drier than normal summer, conditions will only get worse.

The Austin Fire Department said even if next week’s projected rain pans out, it’s going to aid grass growth which could fuel wildfire later in the summer season.

Why intense Gulf of Mexico hurricanes may be more likely this year

While KXAN identified several factors that could tilt the odds toward a hotter, drier than normal summer, there is one variable that could bring significant summer rain to Central Texas — hurricane season. The more specific factor that could lead to intense hurricanes close to Texas this year is the Loop Current.

KXAN animation showing the warm Loop Current in the Gulf, and an eddy breaking off from it and meandering westward. These areas of deep, warm ocean water have very high heat content — and can act as jet fuel for a developing hurricane.

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Harvey and Ida all rapidly intensified after passing over one of these Loop Current eddies in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the presence of near-record warm water in the Gulf this year does not guarantee a storm will cross over it.

Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1.