Tropics forecast becoming clearer, as Houston weekend outlook improves

Good morning. On Wednesday I wrote that it seemed likely the Gulf of Mexico disturbance was going to track east of the Houston region, and now I’m confident that will be the case. As a result, while the Houston region may see some modest rain this weekend, and some higher tides, we should escape significant effects from the tropical system. I’ll discuss this more below.

Thursday

Houston’s high temperature topped out at 97 degrees on Wednesday, and I think we’ll be just a shade lower than that today, with highs generally in the mid-90s across the region. Speaking of shade, you’d better finds some, because skies will be mostly sunny. Winds will be light, out of the east. Clear skies may allow temperatures to drop into the mid-70s overnight.

Friday

Friday will start out a lot like Thursday, but as the tropical system begins to lift north into the central and then northern Gulf of Mexico, we may see some rain chances along the coast. Galveston probably has a 40 percent chance of seeing some light showers during the afternoon, with lower chances inland. Otherwise, highs for much of the region will likely be in the mid-90s, with partly to mostly sunny skies.

NOAA rain accumulation forecast for now through Sunday. (Weather Bell)

Saturday and Sunday

The region’s rain chances will probably be highest on Saturday, with perhaps 40 percent coverage of light to moderate showers due to the tropical system. Chances are highest to the east of Interstate 45, where some coastal areas closer to Beaumont and Port Arthur may see 0.5 to 1 inch of rain. Skies will be partly to mostly sunny when it’s not raining. Rain chances are lower on Sunday, probably in the 20 percent range. Look for highs in the low- to mid-90s both days.

Next week

By around Monday, a late season cool front is expected to move into northern Texas. While I don’t think it will bring much dry air to the Houston region, it should bring increased rain chances to our region from about Monday night into early Wednesday. It’s too early to say much about accumulations, but certainly an inch or so of rainfall would not be unwelcome after our recent heat spell. This may also push highs into the low 90s for a few days—also not unwelcome.

Satellite image showcasing a disorganized disturbance on Thursday morning. (NOAA)

Tropics

The disturbance in the Southern Gulf of Mexico remains a blobby mess, but it should begin to get better organized today, and then start to lift northward. All of the reliable model guidance now brings a tropical depression or weak tropical storm toward Louisiana, with a likely landfall late Friday night or on Saturday. As the storm will probably be sheared, its major rainfall will come to its east, likely over New Orleans, and the coastal Mississippi and Alabama regions. I’d expect 5 to 10 inches of rainfall across widespread areas there, with higher local totals. This is definitely something to consider if New Orleans or travel along Interstate 10 is in your plans this weekend. The good news is that the tropical system should move a little faster than previously anticipated, meaning conditions along the Gulf coast should begin to improve by Sunday.

Storms possible again this afternoon, and a troubling heat statistic

My family and I were driving through Houston on Tuesday evening, after a long day in the car returning from a family reunion, when the heavens opened up. I certainly did not expect to hit that kind of storm, with winds in excess of 40 mph at some locations, and relatively brief heavy rainfall. But it goes to show you what summertime Houston can do in absence of dominant high pressure and with a sea breeze during the afternoon and evening hours. Today could see similar activity, although I don’t think it will be as widespread.

The other two big stories are the heat and the potential for a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll discuss the latter below. But in regard to the heat, Matt shared this sobering statistic with me. Before the storms fired up on Tuesday, Bush Intercontinental Airport hit 98 degrees for the fourth straight day. Since 1888 that has happened only three other times this early in summer: in 1902, 1998, and 2011. All three of those years ended up in the top-15 warmest summers, and 2011 was the warmest summer on record.

Houston finds itself on the edge of a high pressure system over the southwestern United States. (Weather Bell)

Wednesday

Houston remains on the periphery of an intense ridge of high pressure situated over the Western United States. Effectively, this means that we’ll see hot weather, as well as a chance of showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and evening driven by the sea breeze. Coverage should be less than on Tuesday afternoon. Otherwise, look for highs again in the upper 90s, with sunny skies. Lows tonight will remain around 80 degrees, or just below.

Thursday

Another day like Wednesday, albeit with temperatures perhaps a degree or two cooler, and rain chances a little bit lower as well. For most of us, this will simply be a hot and sunny day.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Beginning Friday our weather will be largely dependent on the development of the tropical system in the southern Gulf of Mexico, and its eventual track northward. I’ll discuss the system in the section below, but for now our forecast—which is very much subject to change—is as follows.

Friday will likely see mostly sunny conditions, with highs in the mid-90s, and increasing rain chances along the coast. These showers may spread inland overnight. However, as Matt has discussed, this likely will be a lopsided tropical system, likely with the vast majority of its effects on its eastern side. So if the “center” makes landfall even slightly east of Houston, we’ll fall on the dry side of the storm. I think this will happen. So while there is definitely a chance of heavy rainfall in the Houston region on Saturday, it now seems more probable that we’ll see little to no precipitation.

NOAA rainfall accumulation map for now through Sunday. (Weather Bell)

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, by Sunday the system should be moving away from the region, leaving us with mostly sunny skies, a lingering chance of showers and thunderstorms, and highs in the mid-90s.

Gulf of Mexico disturbance

The disorganized system of showers and thunderstorms is still expected to coalesce into a tropical depression or storm this week, and the National Hurricane Center gives it 90 percent chance of doing so. As this system presently lacks a center, there is the usual uncertainty in track and intensity forecasts. With that said, the overall pattern now favors a more northward track, and this likely would bring the low pressure system toward southern Louisiana, rather than Texas. This is why I’m leaning against heavy rainfall in Houston this weekend, but not ready to make a definitive call. I definitely have more concerns about Louisiana, however, especially the New Orleans area which may see 10 to 15 inches of rainfall.

European model ensemble forecast for “probability” of a tropical depression this week. (Weather Bell)

In terms of intensity, the combination of wind shear and ingestion of dry air will likely limit this system’s potential to that of a low-end tropical storm. But again, it’s difficult to say anything definitive at this time.

Hot and sunny as Houston digs into proper summer weather

Good morning. I want to thank you for all your lovely remembrances about Tropical Storm Allison in the comments here, and on Facebook yesterday. For me, too, it is difficult to believe it was 20 years ago. And after the floods, those were the worst mosquitoes I have ever seen in Houston, and that’s saying something!

Houston’s forecast is pretty straightforward from now through most of the weekend. We’re going to experience a lot of sunshine, and our warmest weather of the year as temperatures stay in the mid-90s for much of the region away from the coast. Rain chances will remain near zero until later on Sunday, and most of the region probably will stay dry until the early or middle part of next week when the tropics may, or may not, intervene.

Thursday

The combination of high pressure expanding northward into the region, and a capped atmosphere, should prelude any shower activity today across Houston. Skies will see a mix of clouds and sunshine as highs push into the low- to mid-90s across the region with light southerly winds. Nighttime temperatures will probably drop into the upper 70s away from the coast.

Friday and Saturday

As high pressure expands across the region, these will be hot and sunny days, with highs in the mid-90s for almost everyone by the immediate coast. Lows will be warm, but at least not in the 80s for most, as can happen later in the summer.

Hello, 90s, for this week and next. (Weather Bell)

Sunday and Monday

High pressure may recede to the west, and this could open up shower chances for some areas on the eastern side of Houston. But any showers that develop will be short-lived, and frankly I expect most of the area will probably remain dry on these days, with mostly sunny skies and warm conditions in the mid-90s.

Next week

Some clouds will return later next week, and this should help to moderate temperatures slightly, and bring back a chance of sea breeze-driven showers during the afternoon hours. Whether these conditions persist for all of next week will depend on the evolution of a tropical system that may form in the southern Gulf of Mexico next week, as discussed below.

The tropics

If you were to only look at the operational runs of the European and GFS models this morning, you’d see a tropical depression of some sort forming in the Southern Gulf of Mexico late Thursday or early Friday of next week. Both of these models then bring a depression or tropical storm northward, toward Texas and Louisiana, about nine days from now. This would lead a keen observer to think that we may see some tropical weather, particularly in the form of higher rain chances, toward the end of next week. You might be concerned.

European ensemble model forecast for tropical storm formation from next Wednesday through Friday. (Weather Bell)

However, and I can’t stress this enough, the global models have been waffling all over in their solutions for this system. Moreover, there is not all that much support for a tropical storm forming in the ensembles, or moving that far north—it seems just as likely that if a depression forms it will remain bottled up in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. And finally, we’re talking about forecasting a system more than a week from now, when we would expect there to be large errors in the models. Given their inconsistency from run to run, we’re filing this under “Something to watch, but not really be concerned about at this time.” We will, of course, keep you updated as needed.

Here’s the summer outlook for Houston and Texas

Thanks to persistent rainfall, we’ve started the month of June cooler than normal in the Houston region. The average temperature, through yesterday, is running 1 to 2 degrees below normal for most of us. But will that trend hold?

First, a word on what we mean by “summer.” There are various definitions of summer. Meteorologists define it as June through August. If we’re going by the solstice, summer runs from June 20 this year to September 22. For a practical Houstonian, I think a good definition of summer is June through September, as that’s the hottest time of year, and the period when we’re most concerned about tropical weather. So for this post, we’ll be looking at the period of June through September.

June outlook

Models are fairly consistent in forecasting a cooler than normal, and wetter than normal June. (Note these seasonal forecasts were released on June 1, so they’re not “cheating” by taking into account the weather to start the month). Given our slightly cooler and definitively wetter start to June, and the potential return of wetter and cooler weather during the second half of next week, I think it’s safe to say these forecasts will verify.

July, August, and September

The question in my mind, then, is what comes after June? According to NOAA, the broader outlook beyond June sees Houston reverting to a more typical summertime pattern. The precise forecast calls for an average temperature for Houston and surrounding areas of 82.3 degrees, about 0.4 degree above normal. NOAA predicts an 80 percent chance of near normal, or above normal temperatures for July, August, and September. (Sorry, there’s less than a 3 percent chance of a substantially cooler than normal summer).

In terms of precipitation, the forecast calls for 15.0 inches of rainfall, which is pretty much right on normal. So, at this time, there is no expectation of a drought. As always, a single hurricane or tropical storm could completely wreck this precipitation forecast, so please take it with a grain of salt.

What should you take away from this? First of all, it’s great news that we’re probably not looking at an oppressively hot and dry forecast for this summer. No one wants to see a repeat of the summer of 2011 heat and drought any times soon. In the bigger picture, however, seasonal forecasts are nothing more than a very general guide. It’s still going to be hot this summer, and we’ll need to remain vigilant for any tropical weather.

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