2020 bringing its strongest heat so far for Houston

Posted by Matt Lanza at 7:32 AM

We topped off (officially) at 97° on Thursday, tying yesterday with June 9th for the hottest day of 2020 so far. Perhaps we could make a run today for….

No matter your age or favorite music, it’s almost always the 90s in Houston.

Maybe. If not, there is a valid chance we could do it Saturday or Sunday as well. Either way, expect a hot holiday weekend, and be sure to take it easy if you’re outdoors.

Today

Look for partly to mostly sunny conditions today. Saharan dust will again provide some haze. Air quality on Thursday did get to the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” level, and it may do so again today, so if you’ve been irritated by the recent dust events or have any respiratory ailments, today may bother you once again. High temperatures should aim for the mid- to upper-90s once more with plenty of humidity. Heat index values topped off around 105° yesterday. We should see similar to perhaps slightly lower peak heat index values today.

Heat index values should top off around 101° to 104° later this afternoon. (Weather Bell)

Rain chances aren’t zero, but they’re low for most of the area most of the day. We will watch some storms in Louisiana later this afternoon that will ride west into Texas this evening. If they can survive the trip, you may see a downpour or have a brief gusty thunderstorm east of I-45 after about 4 or 5 P.M. or so before the storms dissipate. This is a fairly low possibility.

Weekend

For the holiday weekend it will be hot. Both Saturday and Sunday should again see highs in the mid- to upper-90s and lows in the 70s. Humidity is going to creep upward this weekend, so look for peak heat index values around 105°, give or take a couple degrees on both days. Saharan dust may linger a bit, but it will slowly dissipate this weekend.

How about rain? Well, a trough and upper low look to setup shop over Mississippi and Alabama this weekend. Storms on the western periphery of that setup could graze eastern areas. This would be primarily a story for Liberty & Chambers Counties, if not mainly toward Beaumont. So a few heavy downpours are possible east of Houston. Areas to the north (Walker, Montgomery, and San Jacinto Counties) may also get grazed by some storms at times as well this weekend, particularly Sunday morning. For Houston and points south and west, your best shot at storms may be Sunday, and as it stands this morning, that’s a low probability. Either way, no significant issues are expected this weekend.

Next week

Look for scattered showers and thunderstorms on Monday and especially Tuesday. Not everyone will see rain, but it will be our area’s best shot at storms since last week, so hopefully we can participate. By Wednesday, high pressure begins to reload over Texas, building toward the weekend. We will likely be back to hot and mostly dry by the end of next week, with daytime highs back in the 95 to 97 degree range, if not hotter.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, and please stay safe.

Here comes the heat. With high pressure in the vicinity of Houston, we’re heading into a classic heat pattern for the region during summer. It can get hotter than this—I don’t think the region will see much 100-degree weather this time—but the combination of heat and humidity will be stultifying during the midday hours.

Thursday and Friday

These two days will be similar, so there’s no reason to separate them out. Both will see lots of sunshine by the late morning hours and throughout the day. Expect high temperatures to reach the mid- to upper-90s, with lows falling into the upper 70s for most areas except the coast. Light winds, out of the south at about 5 mph, will not provide much relief.

High temperatures on July 4th look hot! (Pivotal Weather)

Independence Day

Conditions won’t change much on July Fourth. We may see a few clouds, and there will be some slight rain chances to the east of Interstate 45. But for most of us, conditions will remain hot and sunny, with highs likely in the upper 90s.

Sunday through Tuesday

It looks like an upper-level low pressure system will now set up to the east of Houston, over the Gulf of Mexico, and so the best rain chances likely will set up for the eastern half of the metro area early next week. Confidence remains low—but if you live in a place like Katy I would not expect much rain, whereas if you’re in Baytown 0.5 to 1 inch may be in the cards. In any case, a few more clouds should take a bit of the edge off of temperatures for a few days.

After this, high pressure should again build over the region, and the second half of next week looks quite hot. Summer, y’all!

June ended up with an average temperature of 82.5 degrees—which is bang on the normal temperature for Bush Intercontinental Airport over the last three decades. Thanks to persistent cloud cover and days of rain, the second half of the month was generally cooler after a hot start to the month. That may make the onset of July, and more typical summertime heat, a little more difficult to bear. For although this week’s heat won’t be exceptional, it will be a bit warmer than normal for July, which is to say hot and humid.

Wednesday

It is awfully sticky outside this morning, with temperatures generally at or above 80 degrees with dewpoints not far behind. There is a bit of dust in the air, as evidenced by the photos above. Some lingering clouds and a bit of moisture may help generate a few isolated showers this morning, but for the most part we should see clearing skies and soaring temperatures today, with highs rising into the mid-90s. Winds will be prominent out of the south, gusting up to 20 mph. Low temperatures Wednesday night will again struggle to drop below 80 degrees for much of the metro area.

Texas is going to be hot this week. Here is a forecast for Friday’s highs. (Pivotal Weather)

Thursday and Friday

Welcome to summer. With high pressure in control of the region’s weather we can expect a pair of hot and sunny days. Look for temperatures to rise into the upper 90s for most of the region, with plenty of humidity pushing the heat index above 100 degrees. These are the kinds of days when you’ll step outside in the afternoon and say, “Oh yeah, now I remember what summer in Houston can feel like.”

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The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early and fiercely active start back in May and early June, which had many people justifiably on edge wondering what was to come. Now, here we are on June 30th and we’ve had one additional storm since Cristobal made landfall in Louisiana at the beginning of June. Things have thankfully slowed down a bit. We’re going to aim to provide sort of a broad overview of the state of the tropics every Tuesday here at Space City Weather, just to keep you apprised of things we don’t make time or space for in the morning updates.

Tropical outlook in a sentence

While we will be watching the potential for some kind of hybrid system to develop off the Florida or Georgia coast early next week, we do not see any threats to the western Gulf for the foreseeable future.

Active start, sort of

Our most recent named storm was Dolly, which briefly threatened some fish in the north Atlantic back on June 23rd. Dolly just missed being the earliest “D” storm on record by 3 days. For those of you scoring at home, the earliest “E” storm was 2005’s Emily, which formed on July 11th.

We normally don’t get to the letter “D” storm until mid-August. (NOAA)

But interestingly, even though we’re running about 45 days ahead of schedule in terms of named storms, when you look at cumulative intensity, it’s less impressive. We like to sometimes look at what we call “accumulated cyclone energy,” or ACE to really hammer home how active a season has been to place it in better historical context. We can name more storms now because we have superior technology to even 10 or 20 years ago that allows the National Hurricane Center to name something borderline that might have slipped through the cracks in the past. Stronger storms likely would not have been missed in the past, so ACE provides a good way to almost compare apples to apples better than number of storms would.

So what is ACE? We said there would be no math, so I won’t go into the details of how it’s calculated. Read the Wikipedia article here for more (yes, it’s legitimate and accurate). Essentially, it’s just an equation that factors the length of time a storm had particular sustained winds. The stronger the winds, the longer it maintains strong intensity, the higher the ACE. Since it only factors in wind, by no means is it perfect. For instance, Hurricanes Harvey, Andrew, and Katrina won’t crack the top 25 list of storms that have generated the most ACE because they didn’t last long enough. So in that respect, the calculation is imperfect, but overall it’s a pretty good gauge of where a season stands historically. You can track seasonal ACE in real time here.

The accumulated cyclone energy for this season so far is running about 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule. (Colorado State)

So back to 2020: We have amassed 6.1 units of ACE this season so far. This is normal for about July 20th, so 3 or 4 weeks ahead of schedule instead of 45 days.

Regardless of how you want to slice it, we’re off to a fast start, so this pause is welcome.

Tropical outlook

Things won’t stay quiet forever, and it appears the next opportunity for a system will be sometime later this weekend or early next week, and in true 2020 fashion, it will occur in a peculiar manner. An upper level low over the Northeast looks to exit over the next couple days, but it seems like a weak little lobe off the south side either stays trapped over or drifts into the Southeast. Here’s the latest 500 mb GFS Ensemble mean view through next week, looking at what’s happening 20,000 feet up. Note the light blue color over the Southeast. This is showing an upper level disturbance of some type by the weekend.

The upper level pattern shown here by the GFS and also by the European model suggests shenanigans are possible off the Southeast coast early next week. (Tropical Tidbits)

From here, we start to see <waves hands> things happening. It appears this may gradually transition to a surface low as it drifts eastward, off the Georgia or Carolina coast and it’s plausible to think it could become tropical on its exit out to sea. While this will likely have limited impact to any land mass, we have a legitimate shot at having our earliest E/5th storm on record this year.

The European ensemble is particularly enthusiastic about a risk for a depression or weak tropical storm to from from the transitioning disturbance over the Southeast early next week. It likely will move steadily out to sea. (Weathernerds.org)

But that’s it; that’s the tropical update for the next 10 days or so. The overall background state of the Atlantic is one that has become more favorable in recent days. I won’t delve too much into the meteorology here, except to say that we’ve had some shifts in the atmosphere over the tropics that should, in theory, allow for a few more waves. But you’ve seen the Saharan dust here in Houston. It’s out there, and it’s widespread.

Yellow, orange, red, Saharan dust is all over. (University of Wisconsin CIMSS)

Anywhere you see yellow, orange, or red on that satellite image is an indication that dust is present. It’s all over the Atlantic basin right now, not necessarily abnormal for this time of year. But where you have dust, you have drier air and a less hospitable environment for tropical development. Suffice to say, with this all over, conditions right now are not ideal for tropical development in the Atlantic basin. In addition, you still have a good bit of shear as well. So the basin isn’t completely immune to storms, but it’s rather inhospitable.

Is there anything happening in fantasyland on the models? Nope. Things look quiet right now as we head through early or mid-July. Short of something rogue like this thing off the Southeast coast next week, we don’t expect much through mid-month. So breathe easy here in Houston for the time being. We’ll check back in on things in a week.