Texas Saw A Decrease In Severe Weather In 2018, Despite Heavy Rains And Flooding

Numbers for hurricanes and tornadoes are down, but Texas is likely getting wetter because of increasing global temperatures.

By Alexia Puente & Morgan KuehlerOctober 29, 2018 12:27 pm|

As the winter season draws nearer, many Texans have noticed the sudden rain, flooding and chilly weather that’s hit our state. Ironically, there were fewer severe-weather events in Texas this year – something that Texas A&M University’s newspaper, The Battallion, captured in a recent headline. Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professor and State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon confirms that it’s true: This year, the number of tornadoes and hurricanes in Texas has fallen well below the average.

“This year has been, at least for tornadoes, a very good year for Texas. Normally, our severe-weather season is primarily April, May and into June. I think it just so happened that during this particular year, we did not get the right kind of weather systems that allowed them to happen,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

Tornadoes occurrences did go up in states further north and east. So Nielsen-Gammon says the low rate in Texas this year could be an anomaly. He says Texas has only about 20 years of data on tornados so that makes long-term trends difficult to predict.

And even though there there hasn’t been a hurricane in Texas since Harvey in 2017, Nielsen-Gammon says the recent heavy rain and flooding is notable.

“After Harvey, there have been several studies looking at historic trends in rainfall, and it seems that those super-intense storms are actually producing 10, 20 or even 30 percent more intense rain than they would have if they happened 100 years ago,” he says.

Nielsen-Gammon says the rain and flooding is likely being enhanced by warmer temperatures across the globe, and a change of weather patterns that goes along with that.

“If you look at the big picture, rainfall, overall, in Texas has gone up by about 5 or 10 percent over the past century, so it seems to be getting wetter. In terms of extreme rainfalls, we get down to very wet months or very wet days – the sort of thing that causes flooding. There, the connection with climate change is a bit stronger,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

Written by Alexia Puente.