Waco weather keeps it wacky

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

Waco weather to some people seems erratic and spastic since it can oscillate from warm to cold temperatures throughout a given week.

According to local Waco specialists, is because of Waco’s location on the globe.

“There’s this constant battle of cold fronts that want to push down, and at the same time we get this maritime tropical air flowing off the Gulf of Mexico,” geology professor Dr. Donald Greene said. “You know the saying: ‘If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few days and it’ll change.’”

Miami junior Alex Parker said he doesn’t like the weather in Waco.

“Waco weather is very different than any other place I’ve experienced,” Parker said. “Just in general, Texas is very different. I grew up on the East Coast, and the weather was pretty consistent there. You knew if it was going to be hot that day, you should wear shorts. If it were going to be cold, you’d wear a jacket. Pretty simple.”

Monterrey, Mexico, senior Marian Urias said she doesn’t understand Waco weather despite her two years at Baylor.

“I have to check the weather forecast every morning because the weather changes so drastically,” she said.

Canton, Ga., senior Sarah Johnson said she finds Waco weather ridiculous.

“It should just stay 30 degrees if it’s 30 degrees and not shoot up to 70 the next day,” she said. “Make up your mind.”

Weather professionals agree that temperatures do not always stay consistent during a week in Waco.

“Texas weather changes rapidly over short intervals of time,” Greene said. “If you’re in the northern tier of the U.S., winter comes and you’re kind of in a deep freeze mostly, whereas here in Waco we will have extremely cold weather for a few days, and then three or four days later the temperature might be in the 80s.”

Greene said Waco weather changes frequently because of something called zonal flow. Cold air is trapped up in the Antarctic region of the globe, and tropical air is trapped lower in latitude on the globe. The two types of air don’t mix with each other at certain times of year.

Eventually, though, the line between the two different types of air, called the jet stream, begins to wobble and become wavelike. Cold air flows south and crosses into warm air, and warm air crosses north into cold air.

Waco is in a position along the jet stream to receive the peaks and troughs of these migrating waves of temperature, whereas places on the globe further north or south receive more of just one type of air, Greene said.

This week in Waco, particularly Monday through Wednesday, temperatures ranged between a high in the 80s and a low in the 50s.

A cold front is scheduled to change temperatures, however, starting today. On Friday and Saturday, the high temperatures are projected to be in the 30s, the low temperatures in the 20s.

“We’re blessed here in Central Texas in that we’re so close to the Gulf of Mexico that cold fronts just don’t last very long,” said Andy Andersen, chief meteorologist for KCEN Weather. “When we get a cold snap, it’ll usually be cold for a couple of days, but then it’ll be mild for a period of days. By that time we’ll probably get another cold front.”

Waco is unlike other places in the U.S., where when it becomes cold for the winter, it generally stays cold, Andersen said.

“We’re just not far enough inland or far enough north from the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

January and February are characteristically the coldest times of year, Andersen said. The region is too close to the moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, and usually gets sleet, freezing rain or ice instead of snow, Garrett said.

The ground needs to stay cold for four or five days for snow to really stick, though, he said.

Wacoans can usually count on getting measurable snowfall every other year in Central Texas, he said.

Rusty Garrett, chief weather anchor for KWTX, also said Waco doesn’t typically receive much snow during the winter. Central Texas is not in the right geographical location for frequent snowfall, he said.

He projects a winter season this year in Waco typical for the region.

“Which means that we’re definitely in for periods of cold, sub-freezing weather,” he said. “We’re far enough south in latitude that these periods don’t typically last too long.”

Garrett said, however, that weather in most places can change frequently, too.

“The Earth is a very fragile globe that we live on and subject to a lot of cycles,” he said. “We go through hot cycles and we go through cold cycles. Weather on Earth is just a constant situation of change, and here in Texas we get about as much weather change as many other places do.”

Andersen also said Waco weather does not appear bizarre to him.

“I’ve worked forecasting the weather in Texas for over 40 years, and I’ve forecasted other parts of the country as well, and I see no difference in forecasting the weather in Waco than any other place,” Andersen said. “The weather’s just very unpredictable. Meteorology is not a science that’s as developed as some other branches of science are.”