El Nino And Rain For Central Texas
Anyone living in Central Texas knows how dry it has been this year and last year. The area has been experiencing an exceptional drought for over 18 months. All someone needs to do to understand this is to drive out to Lake Travis and see how low it is. The area had similar conditions in 2005 and 2006. So why does the area experience periods of drought at some times and flooding rains during other times?
Excluding hurricane season, the amount of rainfall in Central Texas has a lot to do with the temperature of the water in the western Pacific Ocean. Periods of warmer water temperatures are called El Nino. Cooler periods are called La Nina. Recent reports indicate that the water temperature is warming, suggesting the return of El Nino. When that happens, Central Texas sees more rain – sometimes a whole lot more.
El Nino was present in early 2007. That year, Austin received 35 inches of rain by July 20. The area averages around 32 inches per year. One day in June, 2007, the Marble Falls area, about an hour west of Austin, had 18 inches fall in just a few hours. All of that water went directly into an already rising Lake Travis.
Lake Travis is good to watch for anyone interested in how much rain has fallen to the west of Austin. The lake is fed by a number of rivers and the catch basin covers an absolutely enormous area. In January of 2007, the elevation of Lake Travis was around 645 feet above sea level – full is 681 feet. In March, the area catch basin of Lake Travis started getting significant rain. The lake went from 645 feet in January to 660 in March, to 670 in May and then in June when the really heavy rain fell in Marble Falls and other areas, Lake Travis went from 681 to over 700 feet in a matter of days. In other words, the level of the lake went up around 50 feet in just three months.
Some predictions call for El Nino to come on pretty strong during the second half of 2009 of and the first part 2010. Does this mean Austin and Central Texas will see more rain? I'm not a meteorologist, but my answer is we probably will. Does it mean we will see flooding? That is a good possibility. It also means that there is a possibility that the Level of Lake Travis will fill up or flood.