These 3 maps forecast Texas winter conditions

Believe it or not, winter is coming. In Texas, the past three winter seasons have seen storms that resulted in ice-covered trees and roads and power outages.

While the winter storms in 2022 and 2023 paled in comparison with the deadly freeze of February 2021, the problems caused by those freezing conditions have made it imperative for individuals to have emergency plans, officials warn. Austin and Travis County leaders recently shared an update on plans regarding preventive steps they have taken to address a future storm, too.

With maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as our guide, here's what forecasters say could be in store for the state this winter:

How cold will Texas get this winter?

Noting that the El Niño weather pattern is in place for the first time in four years this season, NOAA forecasts that North Texas will see chances of near normal temperatures throughout the winter. (El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that has global effects.)

The rest of the state is looking at equal chances for temperatures being higher or lower than average. Both the Northeast and Northwest regions of the country have the highest chances of having above average temperatures this winter. NOAA has no forecasts for below average temperatures this season.

What about rain and precipitation? Will it snow in Austin?

Wetter conditions are more typical across the southern United States during an El Niño period. NOAA forecasts that the chances of above average precipitation will increase the farther east in Texas you go.

Central Texas is only "leaning above," with a 33%-40% chance of above normal precipitation. Far East Texas is at "likely above," but only with a 50%-60% chance, unlike a large swath of the Southeast U.S. that has the highest likelihood.

Meanwhile, KVUE meteorologist Hunter Williams says the Austin area could see slightly above normal rainfall. Coupled with slightly higher chances of freezing rain or sleet, snowfall locally is a bit more likely, although not guaranteed by any measure.

"A moderate to strong El Niño, which is what we are expecting, does appear to make snowfall a little more likely and, in general, our past significant icing events do slightly favor El Niño conditions," Williams notes.

Drought map shows varying conditions during Texas winter

Drought has plagued parts of Texas throughout 2023. Portions of the state could see that dryness continue while others see drought conditions improve.

Drought is forecast to persist in In West Texas along with New Mexico and in parts of eastern Arizona and southern Colorado.

In Central Texas and far East Texas, drought is forecast to remain but improve. Drought conditions are likely to improve outside the Central Texas area, to the near west and east of the region.

What about another Texas winter storm? NOAA debuts new forecasting model.

NOAA launched an experimental model in November. Dubbed the "Probabilistic Winter Storm Severity Index," the tool looks to predict storms over a seven-day period.

The interactive map can be customized to show the likelihood of impacts ranging from minor to extreme. Here's how the new tool defines those:

  • Minor impacts: Expect a few inconveniences to daily life. Use caution while driving in winter conditions.

  • Moderate impacts: Expect disruptions to daily life. Hazardous driving conditions, closures and disruptions to infrastructure might occur.

  • Major impacts: Expect considerable disruptions to daily life. Dangerous or impossible driving conditions (avoid travel if possible), widespread closures and disruptions to infrastructure might occur.

  • Extreme impacts: Expect substantial disruptions to daily life. Dangerous or impossible driving conditions (travel is not advised), and extensive and widespread closures and disruptions to infrastructure might occur. Life-saving actions might be needed.

You can access the map here.

As of this writing in early December, no impacts are forecast for Texas.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Winter 2023-2024 forecast for Texas amid El Niño