Tag Archive for: wet spring

Does Wet Spring Portend Intense Hurricane Season?

Does a wetter-than-normal spring say anything about Houston’s chances for a busier-than-normal hurricane season? According to Jeff Linder, Harris County’s meteorologist, the two correlate poorly. In the process of exploring that, I discovered some surprising facts about the intensity and seasonality of rainfall in the region.

So Far, Not So Much Wetter than Normal

“Harris County is running slightly above normal for 2024,” says Lindner. “But much of this can be traced back to the rains in late January.”

“I would likely attribute the winter and early Spring rains more to the El Niño pattern in the eastern and central Pacific,” he added. “They tend to bring above-normal rainfall to the southern plains in the fall, winter, and spring months.”

“As for the upcoming hurricane season, there is little correlation between slightly above average rainfall and any sort of potential activity on the Texas coast. With that said, conditions look highly favorable for an active hurricane season in 2024 including very warm sea surface temperatures throughout the Atlantic basin, the collapse of El Nino and development of La Niña.”

Lindner concluded, “That tends to create increasingly favorable conditions for tropical development, especially in the Caribbean Sea, and a wetter than normal pattern from the coast of Africa into the Caribbean.”

The graphs below explain Lindner’s characterization of the temperature and rainfall as “slightly” above normal as we head into hurricane season.

I pulled them from the climate page for Houston on Weather.gov. The National Weather Service (NWS) shows 35 different reporting stations in the Houston region and gives you nine ways to visualize daily, monthly and yearly data.

As I browsed the site, I discovered two interesting things. When you look at monthly averages:

  • Rainfall totals differ greatly depending on your part of Houston.
  • Seasonality of rainfall also differs depending on your area.

Let’s look at the two variables using data and graphs from the climate page above.

Rainfall YTD vs. Highs, Lows, Averages

Bush Intercontinental Airport received about 21 inches of rain (YTD through May 12). In late January and February, Bush was having the rainiest year on record. But since then, despite very heavy rains to the north, we’ve only beaten the average YTD figures by a slight amount, as Lindner observed.

Meanwhile, Galveston started out with record rainfall. Only in the last two or three weeks did it fall behind the record year (1949). Galveston is still about 50% above its average total YTD.

In Conroe, rainfall totals have flirted all year with the record high year of 1935. They only dipped below average for a week or so in January.

Rainiest Months Vary with Distance from Coast

At Bush Intercontinental Airport, June (#1) and October (#2) are the rainiest months with May ranking #3.

But at Galveston’s Scholes Field, May is the ninth rainiest month and September the wettest. September is the peak of hurricane season.

In Conroe, May is the wettest month.

Spring rains play a larger role in the yearly total the farther north you go. But in Galveston, the totals jump up during hurricane season.

Not too much of a surprise there. Many fronts lose their punch before reaching the coast in the winter and spring months. Likewise, many tropical disturbances lose their punch 90 miles inland during the summer and fall – hurricane season.

What Data Illustrates

This data illustrates that it’s hard to generalize about the weather. You can’t take one storm (or even a series of storms) in one location and posit it as proof of a larger trend. Too many factors govern the weather to do that.

Moreover, my rain gage is reading 142% of the YTD figures from the nearest official gage at IAH just seven miles away.

That’s not uncommon. Sometimes a rain bomb lands on your home. Thunderstorms train over you for hours. Or a front stalls when it reaches your address. Those things can skew your perception of the weather.

That said, all the experts are still warning of a much higher-than-normal hurricane season this year. But for reasons unrelated to local flooding.

Happy Mother’s Day

Let me close this Mother’s Day with some beauty from Mother Nature. The son of a friend captured this image while flying around the storm that slammed north Houston on May 9th. He was at 30,000 feet and the clouds topped out at 70,000 feet as the sun was setting.

Photo courtesy of reader. Used with permission.

The power of the photo above should remind you. If you somehow missed it, we just finished Hurricane Preparedness Week. Have you made your preparations for hurricane season yet?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/12/24

2448 Days since Hurricane Harvey