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Weirdly warm, creepily cold: This winter in Austin is an exercise in extremes

A person bundled up walks a dog wearing a sweater on a sunny day
Renee Dominguez
KUT News
A person walks a dog during a hard freeze warning in Austin last month.

In the last two months, Austinites have experienced unusually warm and unusually cold winter weather, and we have a month left to go in the season.

Austin saw its coldest January in 17 years this year, with an average temperature of 47.7 degrees at Camp Mabry in Austin, just two-tenths of a degree above the all-time low average of 47.5 degrees.

It ranked as the 31st coldest January in Austin since record keeping began in the late 1800s, due, largely, to a week of often-freezing temperatures that struck midmonth.

Those freezing temperatures arrived in stark contrast to what had, until then, been an abnormally warm winter season. In fact, December was one of the warmest in recorded history in Austin.

The average monthly temperature was 55.8 degrees, more than 2 degrees above normal, making it the 14th warmest since records began.

Eric Platt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said January’s conditions could be due, in part, to the El Niño pattern hitting the state. An El Niño pattern occurs when temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are warmer than average and can impact weather patterns across the globe.

“In our neck of the woods, when you look at a long-term average over the winter months, we get cooler than normal and wetter than normal,” Platt said.

Researchers warn that the transition between extreme cold and general warming is something the world will need to plan for as climate change continues.

“Despite the fact that we’re in a warming globe right now … we are still going to have these cold or colder outbreaks occur," the National Weather Service’s Victor Murphy told KUT last month.

"So our infrastructure, our public policy still needs to be geared for these cold outbreaks," he said.

As for February, Platt said temperatures look like they will be near normal, while precipitation is predicted to be slightly above normal.

Melody Jones contributed to this report.

Elizabeth was a KUT intern in the spring of 2024.
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