Posted by Matt Lanza at 7:43 AM
The weather pattern over Houston is making up for months and months of wet, dreary weather since last fall. As Eric alluded to yesterday, we’re going to end up below normal on rainfall for the month of March. I’ll take it one step further: Since late January, we have been exceedingly dry.
Rainfall since late January has been no better than 70 percent of what is normal over most of the area. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)
For Harris County, we have only averaged about 70 percent of what is normal over the last 60 days. Go a bit west of Houston, and parts of Central Texas from San Antonio through Austin are averaging about 50 percent or less of normal. Thanks to weeks and months of wet weather prior to the last 45-60 days, we are not in drought, nor are we even abnormally dry according to the latest Drought Monitor report. With an El Niño event ongoing and likely to continue, it would be surprising for this drier weather to continue (El Niño springs are usually fairly wet in Texas). But this will be a story to watch over the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, our nicest week of the year so far has been marred by varying and unrelated forms of air quality issues. It has either been the situation in Deer Park with the ITC Terminal fire (which at least this morning seems under control), obscenely high levels of pollen, smoke from numerous agricultural fires across the Southeast leading to increased particulate matter, or as in today, high levels of ozone.
Visible satellite imagery from late Thursday shows numerous agricultural fires in the Southeast. The red dots represent clearly visible ones; there are likely others. (College of DuPage)
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has declared today an ozone action day, meaning we should see high levels of ozone and generally poor air quality. These types of days aren’t necessarily infrequent in Houston, but it’s just compounding our issues here of late. But, hey, other than that, it should be great today! Expect wall to wall sunshine with some passing high clouds today. We should manage upper-70s to around 80° in some spots.
Posted by Eric Berger at 7:02 AM
Houston has now gone six days without measurable rain—and we’re likely to add at least two more through Friday. The region hasn’t recorded a dry spell longer than five days since early January. It’s been nice—my yard is dry for the first time since I can’t even remember this winter. However we could now use a bit of rain, especially with tree pollen levels so high, and I’m not sure we’re going to get all that much in the days ahead. In fact, this March is likely to see much less rainfall than normal.
March is going to end up with significantly below-normal levels of precipitation. (National Weather Service)
For today, there are no weather concerns. (If you’re in the Deer Park area, unfortunately, benzene levels are elevated in the aftermath of the toxic fire at an industrial facility. Please heed shelter-in-place warnings. Also, Highway 225 is closed in the region). Otherwise, today will be sunny, with high temperatures in the mid-70s, and lows tonight down around 50 degrees. A weak cold front crossed the region Wednesday night, which will keep our air dry for another day or so.
The onshore flow resumes during the day, so you’ll probably notice an uptick in humidity, and temperatures likely will get into the upper 70s. Overall this should still be a very pleasant day, however, with partly to mostly sunny skies. Lows Friday night probably won’t fall much below 60 degrees.
Posted by Eric Berger at 6:50 AM
Good morning. The Deer Park industrial fire has finally burned itself out this morning. Light winds have confined the remaining smoke near the site, and with mixing heights lower due to overnight temperatures, residual smoke is near the surface in the vicinity of Deer Park, northern Pasadena, Galena Park, and Channelview. The smoke should lift later this morning, and disperse, as temperatures warm relatively quickly.
In happier news, spring officially begins later today, and along with it our amazing weather will continue through Friday. Unfortunately, for the weekend, the forecast is less sublime.
Wednesday night should be another pleasant one across the state of Texas. (Pivotal Weather)
Wednesday and Thursday
Our weather will be nearly perfect, with highs in the mid 70s, lows down around 50 in the city of Houston (cooler inland, warmer along the coast), and dry air. Enjoy!
This should be another fine day, but later we should notice a subtle shift in the winds, signalling the return of an offshore flow. Highs in the mid-70s, with a warmer night due to the wind shift, likely only in the upper 50s.
Posted by Eric Berger at 6:55 AM
Good morning. While our weather remains exceptionally fine for this time of year, we do have some significant air quality concerns for the metro area.
First, and most dramatically, is the Deer Park Fire incident at the Intercontinental Terminals Company, which continues to burn unrestrained this morning. The key thing to watch, in terms of weather, is “mixing heights,” which is the level that smoke from the fire will rise in response to the atmospheric profile. Put another way, the smoke will rise as long as it is warmer than the surrounding air. These mixing heights have lowered this morning to about 500 feet, in response to cooler nighttime temperatures, but they should steadily rise to about 5,000 feet or so today, keeping the smoke plume above the ground.
(National Weather Service)
A number of readers have asked how concerned we should be about this fire in terms of air quality. This is beyond my scope of expertise, but overall I would just say this incident is pretty egregious, and that we should hold our elected officials accountable for the leaders the appoint to agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which theoretically should be preventing accidents like these, monitoring them, and ensuring they don’t happen again. The chemical industry provides many good paying jobs for the Houston region, but that doesn’t mean we should accept accidents such as these as part of the bargain.
The other concern we have this morning is our ongoing battle with spring pollen season. Tree pollen remains “extremely heavy” in the city of Houston, and grass pollen is also a problem as well. Most of the tree pollen is coming from oaks. This problem will likely persist until the region gets its next moderate to heavy rainfall, which may come around Monday—or maybe not even then. Now, onto the forecast.