How Often Does Houston See Temperatures In The Teens?

Year Month Date Temp
1892 12 27 19
1894 1 25 19
1894 12 28 15
1894 12 29 15
1895 2 7 11
1895 2 8 10
1895 2 16 13
1895 2 17 16
1897 1 27 19
1897 1 28 19
1899 2 12 6
1899 2 13 6
1899 2 14 10
1900 2 18 19
1905 2 15 18
1911 1 3 16
1911 1 4 18
1912 1 13 17
1918 1 12 11
1928 1 1 18
1928 1 2 16
1930 1 17 15
1930 1 18 5
1930 1 19 18
1930 1 22 15
1930 1 23 17
1933 2 7 19
1933 2 8 13
1933 2 9 15
1935 1 21 19
1935 1 22 17
1936 2 18 19
1940 1 19 10
1940 1 23 14
1949 1 30 18
1949 1 31 14
1951 1 31 19
1951 2 1 15
1951 2 2 14
1963 1 24 18
1970 1 7 19
1976 1 8 19
1976 1 9 19
1976 11 30 19
1977 1 10 18
1977 1 19 18
1982 1 11 12
1982 1 14 19
1983 12 24 14
1983 12 25 11
1983 12 26 18
1983 12 30 19
1983 12 31 18
1985 1 21 16
1989 12 13 19
1989 12 16 19
1989 12 22 13
1989 12 23 7
1989 12 24 11
1990 12 24 19
1996 1 8 19

Data from 1892 to 1969 are from Downtown Houston at the Houston Weather Bureau. Any data from 1969 to present are from Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH).

There have been 61 records of Houston hitting 20°F from 1892 to present day. If we do the law of average, Houston should see below 20°F temperature every 2 years. Single digits happen about every 30 years on average. The earliest to see below 20°F was November 30, 1976, while latest was February 18, 1900 and 1936.

Month Most Likely To See Below 20°F
January

Month and Year That Saw Most Below 20°F
January 1930-5
December 1983-5
December 1989-5

Year That Saw Most Below 20°F
1930-5
1983-5
1989-5

Winter That Saw Most Below 20°F
1894-1895-6
1929-1930-5
1983-1984-5
1989-1990-5

However, KIAH has not seen below 20°F, even though other areas have. Interesting to note that Bush Intercontinental Airport has not seen below 20°F since January 1996. This is despite the fact that other areas in Houston have seen teens recently as this freeze we had earlier in February 2011. KIAH has a Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), which was installed in 1997 and used to this day. Also, there are more development around KIAH, which causes “heat island effect”.

So, could we see a winter with multiple temperatures below 20°F? The answer is yes and I think we are entering a cooler phase, like the late 1970s to early 1980s. Some of the coolest years in Southeast Texas occurred in the late 1970s. I think the winter of 2011-2012 could be just as cold, if not colder. One reason is that the previous winter is La Nina and goes into El Nino, winters are colder. There is a possibility that if we go into an El Nino towards the end of 2011. The last time a year went from La Nina to El Nino was 2006. The winter of 2006-2007 was cold and rainy for Southeast Texas. There was an ice storm in January and an Arctic blast in April of 2007. Here are winters that were previously La Nina and went to El Nino the following winter:
1875-1876
1886-1887
1903-1904-1904-1905 Winter was one of the coldest winters.
1910-1911
1917-1918
1950-1951
1956-1957
1962-1963-1963-1964 Winter was one of the coldest winters.
1971-1972-Had three snow events in 1972-1973 Winter. One of the coldest winters.
1975-1976-Winter of 1976-1977 is one of the coldest winters.
2005-2006-Winter of 2006-2007 had a January ice storms and a rare April snowfall north of Houston.
2008-2009-Winter of 2009-2010 is one of the coldest winters on record.

Top 10 Coolest Winter
1977-1978 48.9
1894-1895 49.2*
2009-2010 49.7
1904-1905 49.8
1898-1899 50.1
1963-1964 50.2
1976-1977 50.2
1983-1984 50.6
1978-1979 50.7
1939-1940 51.0
1972-1973 51.0
* No data for December of 1894
Bold indicates El Nino Winters that occurred after La Nina Winter.

Climate Prediction Center-ENSO Previous Events (1951-present)
Japanese Meteorological Agency-ENSO
NOAA Divisional Data Set

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