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Friday, November 30, 2012

New Month - Same Weather

This picture is from last year's Mayor's Holiday Tree Lighting celebration - Houston's official kickoff to the Holiday season will light up tonight. Indeed the calendar will say December tomorrow, but don't expect a big change in the mild weather that ended November. In fact, we won't see any change until Tuesday when a cold front moves in. But even that won't usher in a sustained cool down to make it feel more like the holidays. I don't see cooler weather until next weekend, when a stronger cold front moves in followed by a taste of arctic air. So if you like cold weather, you'll have to wait until then.

Meanwhile, this weekend is looking mild as high pressure to our east allows the southeast wind flow off the Gulf to continue. That will mean a warm and balmy weekend.

TONIGHT: Showers diminishing, but skies remain cloudy with some fog developing by early morning. Lows in the low 60s with light southeast winds 2-5 mph.

SATURDAY: Morning low clouds and fog lift by mid-morning. Partly cloudy for the remainder of the day. Warm with temperatures topping out near 80°. Breezy with southeast winds 10-15 mph.
SUNDAY: Morning low clouds and fog lift by mid-morning. Partly cloudy by afternoon. Warm and breezy with temperatures topping out again near 80°. Southeast winds 10-15 mph.

How Dry We Are

As I posted yesterday, without some significant rainfall on this last day of November, this could be the 6th driest one on record in Houston.  Only .65" has ended up in the rain bucket at Bush airport this month.  Its a story playing out all across the Lone Star.  Quite a reversal from last year, when we had nearly 5", the start of several wet months coming out of the record drought.of 2011.  Look at this comparison of the drought status over the last 30 days:

The big differences are in the panhandle and east and southeast Texas.  At the end of October only a handful of counties were classified as abnormally dry.  Now, nearly all of Southeast Texas are either in a moderate or severe drought.  The short range forecast for the next month shows little change in the rainfall patterns so this picture will likely get worse.

Beside leading to brown lawns and higher water bills, the increasing drought is also placing more and more of the state at risk for fire.  Here's the new map showing burn bans that are in effect:

Check back with me later today; I'll post the warm weekend forecast, talk about the next rain chance and the next cool down.

Hurricane Season 2012: A Three-Peat

2012: Named storms: 19, hurricanes: 10, major: 1
Watch a loop of the entire 2012 season here:
The 2012 Hurricane season comes to an end and for a record third year in a row 19 named storms formed.  A more "normal" season was expected due to El NiƱo, which never materialized.  Instead, the year will be remembered for three land falling storms.  Even though no "major" (cat 3 or higher) hurricane has hit the U.S. since Wilma in 2005, the two that did hit this year caused widespread flood and storm surge damage.  The cost from Sandy are still mounting, $100 billion and counting.  It may finally be time to reconsider "how" storm threats are communicated.

The season got off to a fast start with a record four storms developing during the first month.  I must admit, I doubted whether or not two of those first four were valid.  Tropical Storm Alberto didn't seem very organized and Hurricane Chris looked more like an extra-tropical storm in the North Atlantic.  Then, along came Tropical Storm Debby at the end of June giving forecasters fits.  The first projection positioned the storm toward Texas.  It eventually drenched most of the Florida panhandle over the course of nearly a week.

Then things got very quiet in July as no storms developed.  August did a 180°, and it seemed a new blossomed every few days with a total of eight for the month.  Few were a real threat until Isaac, which drew comparisons with another "I" storm - Ike.  That was mainly due to its size:

However, no two storms are ever alike and each poses unique threats.  Isaac while large was slow-moving once it entered the Gulf.  Also slow was the declaration of Isaac to hurricane status, which may have delayed the action of some in the storm's path.  Eventually Isaac dumped nearly two feet of rain in the Mississippi delta, leaving behind scenes like this from New Orleans:

After Isaac, it looked like the season might be over.  Only two storms formed in the usually busy month of September.  Among them was the strongest of the season; but Cat. 3 Michael meandered harmlessly in the central Atlantic.  Then things got active again in October, capped off by the SuperStorm - Sandy.

I recall watching the long-range computer models about ten days out hinting at something developing in the Caribbean.  I thought the model was over-doing it until it persistently continued with that forecast.  Eventually, of course a storm did form, roaring to Cat 2 status wreaking havoc first in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Then for the second time in as many years, the East Coast of the U.S. braced for a possible hurricane strike.  But unlike last year's Irene, Sandy would strengthen before slamming into the coast.

People from the Carolinas to New England suffered some kind of damage.  The highest impact came to Coastal New York and New Jersey with a deadly combination of torrential rain and storm surge flooding accompanied by winds that knocked out power to millions. 
The land falling storm collided with cold air bringing early record snowfall to West Virginia.  Even as people struggle to recover in the hardest hit areas, the economic impacts of Sandy continue to mount:
On this last day of the season, the hurricane center is watching a swirl in the southern Atlantic with only a slight chance of developing.  It's doubtful that the season will extend into December, though.  The last time that happened was 2007, when Olga formed in the Caribbean in December of that year.
It's a long way to June 2013, and hopefully, that year's tally won't reach as high as the last three.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Warm-Up On The Way


Is THIS what December is supposed to look like?  Not quite exactly.  The return of southeast winds over the next few days and a relatively flat upper-air pattern signals a warm-up for Texas as a new month begins in a few days.  Is there cooler weather down the road?  Not until possibly the end of next week.  Also, there's been an alarming lack of rain this month.  We've only seen .65" at Bush (3.54" below normal) and .67" at Hobby (3.51" below normal).  There's a slight chance for a few passing showers Friday, but unless there is measurable rainfall, this November will go down as the 6th driest.

TONIGHT: Partly cloudy early with increasing low clouds after midnight and areas of fog by sunrise. Some of the fog could be dense in spots.  Overnight lows in the mid to upper 50s. Southeast winds 5-10 mph.

FRIDAY: Partly to mostly cloudy skies after morning fog lifts. Brief passing showers are possible. Highs in the low to mid 70s. Winds southeast 8-15 mph.

SATURDAY: Morning fog followed by partly cloudy skies; a breezy, balmy and warm feel. Highs near 80 (the record is 82° set in 1970).  Southeast winds 10-15 mph.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Full Moon Tonight

Look for it tonight - the November full moon, according to the Farmer's Almanac is the Full Beaver Moon.  In years gone by, this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another reason for the moon's name is more practical; it suggests that this is the time beavers are actively preparing for winter.  Anyway it will be a bright sight on this clear night with relatively dry air.  And there's something else to see tonight - Jupiter:

As for the weather, we'll see one more cool dry day before southeast winds bring back the humidity by the end of the week.

TONIGHT: Fair skies, cool with lows in the mid to upper 40s in town, upper thirties for northern 'burbs and low 50s along the coast.  Some patchy fog developing in low-lying areas toward sunrise. Winds nearly calm.

THURSDAY: Sunny early with partly cloudy skies by afternoon. Highs in the low 70s. Winds southeast 5-10 mph.

FRIDAY: Fog early followed by partly to mostly cloudy skies.  Warmer with highs in the mid to upper 70s. Winds southeast 5-10 mph.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chilly Nights Ahead

After needing the A/C yesterday, you may be inclined to light a fire the next few nights.  The cool front that moved in overnight may have been a bit underwhelming here in Houston, even though folks north of town got quite a dousing.  Clouds lingered in the sky for most of today, but tonight they will thin out, allowing the temperature to drop into the 40s.  Tomorrow night, under clearer skies for a longer period of time, it could get even colder, especially in northern suburbs.  Then, believe it or not, we'll see warmer and muggier weather return by the end of the week.  Why are we on this seeming weather roller coaster?  The answer lies in the high speed, high-altitude winds of the jet stream that steer weather patterns.  Here is what they look like today:

The "dip", which extends from Houston toward the Great Lakes allows the cool air to fill in behind last night's cold front.  Here is how it will shift by the end of the week:

Notice the "dip" is gone and the flow, represented by the sold black lines, looks kind of flat.  In meteorology, this is called a "zonal" flow.  It will eventually lead to a "rise" in the flow causing our warm-up.

TONIGHT: Partly cloudy skies become clearer after midnight.  Temperatures fall in into the low 40s from the Woodlands north; mid 40s in Houston and low 50s near the coast. Light north winds 5-10 mph.

WEDNESDAY: Mostly sunny and crisp early, becoming milder by afternoon. Highs in the upper 60s to low 70s. Northeast winds become east 5-10 mph.

THURSDAY: Mostly sunny and cool early, partly cloudy and warmer afternoon.  Highs in the low 70s. East winds becoming southeast 5-10 mph.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Overnight Storms Possible

Don't get too used to today's near-record warmth.  For the second time in as many weeks, we're flirting with a record high.  Today, we topped out 2 degrees shy of the 1967 mark of 86° for this date.  Once again, though, a change heading our way will make it feel more like November by tomorrow.  That change is in the form of a cold front which will sweep across Southeast Texas overnight.  At the same time, am upper-level disturbance is moving in from the Big Bend.  Currently computer models time the two to arrive at the same time, enhancing the chance for thunderstorms - some of which could be strong.  This afternoon's satellite picture shows the two features:

Storms that form will likely do so after 11 pm, and it may be a very narrow line which develops as the cold front moves through. Currently, the Storm Prediction Center has neighborhoods well north and east of Houston as having the greatest risk for damaging wind gusts and hail:

In fact, the majority of the stronger storms could impact Central Louisiana more so than Southeast Texas.  The bottom line for us is to expect some rain overnight and depending on how slow the front advances, it may linger into the early part of the Tuesday morning commute.

TONIGHT: Increasing cloudiness with showers and thunderstorms developing most likely after midnight. Temperatures will fall as the front arrives dropping from the mid 60s to the mid 50s just after sunrise. Winds will be southwest until the frontal passage, when they will sharply turn out of the northwest and become quite brisk.

TUESDAY: Lingering morning clouds and exiting coastal rain followed by slow clearing.  Skies will remain partly to mostly cloudy for most of the day.  Much cooler with highs in the mid 60s accompanied by breezy north winds 10-15 mph.

WEDNESDAY: Sunny and cool in the morning with lows in the mid 40s. Afternoon highs in the low 70s. A milder east wind 5-10 mph.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Friday

Stuffed? Elated over the Texans OT win? Now it's time to do battle at the malls. Take a nap, some of them are open later today. I remember the good 'ol days, when my kids were younger and I would set the alarm for 6 am. Ha! Now, people camp out days in advance in hopes of scoring the killer deal. As for the weather; I'm tracking changes that will impact you, depending on when you plan to shop. A cool front to our west moves our way Friday and it could set off showers in the moist air that's been building the last few days. Buy a sweater for yourself if you're shopping over the weekend because it'll get much cooler by Saturday and Sunday morning once the front moves through Friday. That cooler air should put an end to the foggy mornings we've seen as well. Dense fog became deadly Thanksgiving morning on I-10 just west of Beaumont. There was a 50 car pileup resulting in over two dozen injuries and two fatalities.

TONIGHT: Partly to mostly cloudy skies, mild with lows in the upper 50s to low 60s. Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph.

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy early with scattered showers by afternoon. Rain likely moves in from west to east. Highs in the mid to upper 70s. Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph, becoming northwest 10-15 by early evening.

SATURDAY: Early clouds give way to mostly sunny skies, breezy and much cooler. Lows in the mid to upper 40s. Highs in the mid 60s. Winds: Northwest 10-15 mph.

Happy Thanksgiving

It's almost here and it's shaping up to be a day with some very nice weather here in Houston.  A ridge of high pressure kept temperatures quite warm today, Bush topped out 1 degree shy of the record of 84°, set five years ago. Driving around today, I saw these striking contrails in the sky, caused by airplane exhaust condensing in the very cold air aloft:

By morning, we'll once again see some fog developing across southeast Texas, with the best chance south of I-10.  So if you're headed downtown for the Holiday Parade, don't surprised if the high-flying hot air balloons fly a little low.  The festivities kick off at 9 am, which is about when the fog of the past few days has lifted, so it could be close.  Either way, you may have to dress in layers because it will be cool in the morning in the 50s, but warm quickly to the mid 70s when the parade winds down.
Hurry home to root for the Texans who travel to Detroit to take on the Lions who always play tough on Turkey Day.  Whatever your plans, I hope you take some time to reflect on your many blessings.  Once you start naming them, you may find it tough to stop.  May your day be filled with family, friends and food.
Tonight: Fair skies and mild with patchy to dense fog forming before sunrise. Lows: low to mid 50s, Winds: calm.
Thanksgiving: Morning fog quickly lifts revealing a partly cloudy, warm day. Highs: mid to upper 70s. Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph.
Black Friday: Morning fog when stores open, cool with lows in the low to mid 50s,  Partly to mostly cloudy afternoon with a slight chance of passing showers late. Highs in the mid to upper 70s.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another Foggy Start?

If it was tough to see this morning in your neighborhood, it could be again Wednesday morning.  If you have to go to work or are headed out early to beat the holiday travel traffic, be prepared to fire up the low beams.  This morning's visibility dropped below 1/2 mile for a while; the same thing could happen again tomorrow.

It's been a mild day - the high at Bush Airport was close to 80°. Typically at night the air cools, but can't drop below the dew point - a measure of the amount of moisture in the air.  Over night dew points are forecast to be in the mid 50s which is about where the temperature will settle.  If the difference between those numbers is less than a few degrees, fog will begin forming.  It may not lift again until a few hours after sunrise, say 9 or 10 am. 

This pattern holds one more day until a cool front moves in early Friday. It shouldn't be a big problem for Black Friday shoppers, but should usher in cooler weather by the weekend.

Houston Forecast:

Tonight: Fair and mild with fog forming after midnight. Lows: low to mid 50s. Winds: Calm

Wednesday: Morning fog lifts, skies become partly cloudy. Warm, with highs in the upper 70s to low 80s. Winds: East 5-10 mph

Thanksgiving: Morning fog followed by partly cloudy skies, Breezy and mild with highs in the low 80s. Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph

Travel Won't Be Tough

I know a lot of you will hit the roads the next few days to travel to see family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. One thing you can be thankful for is few weather problems. Typically, we see a second severe storm season that peaks in mid-November. However, this year, there's been little going on and that could be due, in part to hurricane Sandy. A hurricane is the atmosphere's way of releasing excess heat near the equator and sending it northward toward the poles. The goal is balance; the earth is trying to re-establish that.

This morning's map is fairly quiet:

Driving east or west away from Houston should be pleasant.  Expect mostly sunny skies and dry roads headed toward Dallas, San Antonio or Austin.  If you're going to Louisiana, expect much the same.

The only challenge flying from Houston will be the Pacific northwest. A vigorous storm system there is bringing rain and gusty wind to Washington, Oregon and northern California.  A front sweeping across the Midwest may spark showers, but flight delays should be minimal.  Check to find out which major airports around the country have delays.

If you're driving from Houston Wednesday morning, there could be another round of dense fog, so if you can delay leaving until after 9 am.  Wherever you're headed, I wish for a pleasant trip and lots of joy when you get where you're going.