Houston feeling the El Niño pattern this winter

After a stretch of intermittently sunny weather, with mostly rain-free days, Houston now returns to a more gloomy pattern. Several readers have asked why this winter has been so wet and gray, and the reason is generally due to the recent formation of a weak El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This pattern generally favors a wetter winter, and that’s precisely what we’re going to get for the rest of February, at least. (El Niño is not expected to continue into the summer, so it’s unlikely to affect the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season).

January was a typical month during a weak El Nino, with 1-2 inches of rain more than normal for most of Houston. (National Weather Service)


Today will be especially wet and gray, with near 100 percent rain chances for Houston. Until around sunset, bands of light to moderate rain will pulse into the region from the Gulf of Mexico as an upper-level storm system moves through the area. While conditions for heavier rain are better to the east and northeast of Houston (parts of Arkansas could see in excess of 3 inches of rain), for our region we expect most areas to receive under 0.5 inch today. Still, it will be cloudy, and cold, with highs unlikely to reach 60 degrees. Lows Tuesday night will probably fall to around 50.


This has the potential to be a nicer day. Sometime early Wednesday, a cold front associated with Tuesday’s rain showers will push through Houston. This will be a relatively weak front, but it should bring some drier air, and therefore rain chances for the daytime on Wednesday are fairly low. We may also see some sunshine during the afternoon and evening hours as highs rise into the low 60s.


The combination of coastal moisture and a disturbed atmosphere won’t leave things alone for too long, however. By Thursday clouds should return, and healthy 50 percent rain chances along with it. This should be a cool day, with highs around 60 degrees.

Friday and Saturday

With the return of the onshore flow, temperatures heading into the weekend will warm up quickly, and I’d anticipate highs in the mid-70s both days. We might expect even warmer weather, but clouds will dominate the skies, along with those on-again, off-again rain chances. For the most part, rains should be light to moderate, but we can’t rule out a few thunderstorms here and there.

This rain accumulation forecast for now through Saturday shows the potential for heavy rain to the northeast of Houston. (Pivotal Weather)


Another relatively weak cold front is on schedule to arrive later on Saturday, and this should dry things out for Sunday. The second half of the weekend continues to look quite nice, with highs in the upper 60s or lower 70s, mostly sunny skies, and near zero rain chances. This is looking like a great day to be outdoors.

Next week

Alas, rain chances will return by next Monday or so, and some forecast models are hinting at a fairly wet period from Monday evening through Tuesday, with perhaps 1 to 2 inches falling over the Houston area. It’s too early to have much confidence in those predictions however.

12 thoughts on “Houston feeling the El Niño pattern this winter

  1. Sara

    Praise God for the El Niño not affecting the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season. Yes, I know things could still happen that are intense, to put it mildly, but I’ll take every glimmer we get about hurricane season!

    1. Bill K

      El Niño usually causes a reduction in Atlantic hurricane activity, so one hopes that this El Niño sticks around.

  2. Chuck

    🙂 OK Eric and Matt, the comment about El Niño this summer causes me to invoke the famous intro to the old TV series, Mission Impossible, (1966-1973)

    “Your mission, Mr Berger and Mr Lanza, should you choose to accept it, is to produce a MEGA-El Niño in the Pacific this summer. As always, If you or any of your IM force are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. After you read it, this message will self-destruct in 10 seconds”. 🙂

  3. Sharkbait

    I started my seeds indoors too early it seems. They’re dying to get in the ground already. Last night was pretty cold. These upcoming cold fronts seem not too bad. Any confidence that we won’t get anymore cold nights? My garden needs to know! We live by Galveston Bay.
    P.s. fingers crossed about hurricane season despite El Niño going away, but one never knows.

  4. tanstaafl

    Your old stomping grounds Chron.com had a clickbait headline this morning: “Forecasters expect severe weather.” Once clicked, the headline on the page said “Heavy rain, thunderstorms expected today.” But reading the actual story it noted accumulations of 1/2″ or less for today, which seems right.

    1. Eric Berger

      Last year the Chronicle approached me about returning to the site for weather purposes. Headlines like this on the home page are one reason why I preferred to remain independent.

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