Heavy rains drench Texas

Heavy rains drench Texas
Posted by: JeffMasters, 5:03 PM GMT on January 25, 2012 +11
Big smiles greeted heavy rains in Texas this morning, where an upper-level low pressure system brought significant soaking rains to eastern portions of the state. The rain was heavy enough to cause minor flooding of some creeks and rivers, and the NWS has posted flash flood watches and warnings for most of Eastern Texas. High water rescues have occurred on the streets of Haltom City, Texas. It's been a while since we've seen our severe weather map light up in green colors for Texas! Austin, Texas received 5.66" of rain this morning, setting a record for the date, and rainfall amounts of 2 - 4 inches have been common across most of East Texas. The storm has triggered severe thunderstorms over Texas yesterday and this morning, and two possible tornadoes were reported in Edwards County near Houston yesterday. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed much of East Texas and Western Louisiana in their "Slight Risk" region for severe weather today, and tornado watches are posted. Some 24-hour rainfall amounts from the storm, for the period ending at 6am CST January 25:

Dallas Love 3.17"
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport 3.08"
San Antonio 3.13"
Waco 2.68"
Victoria 0.96"

FIgure 1. Radar-estimated rainfall for the 24 hours ending at 10:23am CST January 25, 2012.

Above-average rains for Texas this winter
Despite predictions that this winter would be unusually dry in Texas due to the on-going La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific, Texas has seen more rain than average. Today's storm is the second major soaking Eastern Texas has received this month. December also had plentiful rains, with the state recording its 19th wettest December in 117 years of record keeping. However, 2011 was the driest year in Texas history, and many regions still have a long way to go before drought conditions abate. The January 17, 2012 Drought Monitor showed 62% of Texas in two worst categories of drought—extreme to exceptional. That's quite an improvement from the 97% of the state that was in extreme to exceptional drought back on September 27, 2011, though. The latest GFS model forecast shows mostly dry conditions returning to Texas next week, with the possibility of more heavy rain for East Texas on February 3.

Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Funso moves away from Mozambique
The most powerful tropical cyclone of 2012 is Tropical Cyclone Funso, which intensified to a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds early this morning. Funso is located in the Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and Mozambique, and is expected to remain offshore and move slowly southwards. The outer spiral bands of Funso dumped torrential rains on Mozambique early this week, triggering floods that killed at least twelve people. Flooding from Funso was made worse by the saturated soils left by Tropical Depression Dando, whose rains caused flooding that killed ten people in the country last week.

Figure 2. Image of Tropical Cyclone Funso taken by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite on January 25, 2012, at 07:40 UTC. At the time, Funso was a Category 4 storm with 115 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Largest solar storm since October 2003 hits Earth
On January 23 near 03:39 UTC, big sunspot 1402 erupted, sending a coronal mass ejection (CME) headed towards Earth. The CME arrived at Earth on January 24 near 15 UTC, setting off the biggest solar storm since October 2003. Bright auroras were observed at many northern locations, and a G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress. For more info, see NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center or spaceweather.com.

Figure 3. Solar flare as observed by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 03:27, 03:42, and 04:12 UTC January 23, 2012. Note the brightening of the solar surface as gas was superheated and magnetically supercharged. By the third (right) image, a stream of solar material is seen flowing off into space above the hot spot, likely solar protons and a coronal mass ejection (CME). Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Jeff Masters

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