Weather in 2020 was tame for Dallas-Fort Worth; now comes the drought

Despite all of the troubles of 2020, the North Texas weather was hardly one of them.

There wasn’t a record time of days of triple-digit heat. (Dallas-Fort Worth actually had fewer 100-degree days than normal.) There were no ice storms to paralyze the city. (Just a snow dust in January.) Even severe weather events were rarer. (North Texas had nearly 50% fewer tornadoes this year than 2019.)

But with less rain than usual in the last few months of the year, North Texas will end 2020 and start the new year with a drought.

By mid-December, according to the US Drought Monitor, practically all of northern Texas – including counties Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant – was in at least a moderate drought. Most of Tarrant County and parts of western Dallas County have slipped into periods of severe drought.

With a La Niña expected to linger through the winter, drought conditions are likely to only worsen. According to Sarah Barnes, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, La Niñas – characterized by below-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific – generally means drier and milder winters than usual in North Texas.

“I can definitely see the drought conditions persisting,” Barnes said, given the lack of rainfall in the second half of 2020.

Typically July through the end of the year, Dallas-Fort Worth receives over 16 inches of rain. As of December 14, the area recorded 11.23 inches of rain in the second half of the year, according to weather service data.

In October, usually the second wettest month of the year for north Texas, the area recorded just 1.28 inches of rain, compared with an average of 4.21 inches.

If drought conditions persist or worsen through winter and through 2021, North Texas could also have the potential for wildfires.

The National Interagency Fire Center’s prospects put northern Texas at above-average wildfire potential in January and February.

According to Barnes, dry soils and grasses are enough to cause forest fires due to the drought that results in low humidity and windy winter winds.

“It doesn’t take much,” said Barnes.

Although all of North Texas will have greater wildfire potential in January and February, Barnes said that wildfires typically occur most frequently outside of the immediate Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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