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Last month was Texas's warmest December in the modern record era

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 19:49:00-05

CENTRAL TEXAS — The newest data shows last month was the warmest December for the Lone Star State since 1889.

The modern record era started shortly after that, meaning December 2021 is now the hottest December on the books, taking the top spot over December 1933. The average temperature that month was 53.3 degrees. In contrast, December in the state usually averages 46.9 degrees.

John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, says that going forward we should expect to see more record highs than record lows.

"We're averaging about two degrees warmer now than we were back in average across the 20th century," said Nielsen-Gammon.

The warm and dry weather patterns last month prompted new droughts to pop up and made existing droughts worse. Central Texas managed a bit of rain, but western parts of the state have gone without rain for weeks.

"The cool season grasses for cattle grazing aren't growing," said Nielsen-Gammon. "A lot of winter wheat didn't emerge or is not healthy, so it can't be used for grazing at this time."

While crops have taken a hit, the bug population might not.

"The warmer temperatures will decrease the amount of mortality that we normally see with insects, just based on exposure to cold temperatures," said Laura Weiser Erlandson, associate professor of biology at Texas A&M - Central Texas.

Does that mean we're in for a spring full of mosquitoes? That's where the drought might actually be beneficial.

"Really the main factor for mosquitoes is the amount of water that's available," said Erlandson. "It's really just kind of whether or not the pools that their larva and eggs are in dry up."

We're starting to enter a more "normal" pattern for temperatures, but there is some concern that the pieces are coming into place for a scorching summer.

"If it stays dry for the next several months, I'm actually pretty concerned we could see something like we did in 2011 with an extremely hot summer," Neilsen-Gammon said.

Two of the dominoes have already fallen: autumn and the beginning of winter were both quite dry. If that trajectory continues, it could culminate in some serious heat by the end of spring. Fortunately, that's still several months away and there is plenty of time for the weather to take a wetter turn.