Archive for August, 2011

A Sun Pillar
August 29, 2011


 When the atmosphere is cold, ice sometimes forms flat six-sided crystals as it falls from high-level clouds. Air resistance then causes these crystals to lie nearly flat much of the time as they flutter to the ground. If viewed toward a rising or setting Sun, these flat crystals will reflect sunlight and create an unusual column of light — a sun pillar as seen above.

To view other sun pillars click here:

Sun Pillars

To view past weather quiz answers click here:

Past Weather Quiz Answers


2011 Hottest Year Ever Recorded
August 21, 2011

We are on track to set the hottest year on record in Houston with an average temperature of 72.6 degrees.  This is rather incredible despite our cold winter.  Interesting that second place is exactly 100 years ago.    In a typical year Houston’s average daily mean temperature is 67.9 degrees. 

Focusing on the month of August, Houston’s average temperature is 82.3 degrees.  However, this August our average is 90.7.  The record was set last year at 87.7 degrees.  Being three degree above our record is almost inconceivable.   

The 100-Degree Streak Continues, Records Falling
August 18, 2011

This unprecedented string of 100-degree days shows no signs of stopping.  We are quickly coming up on the all-time summer record of 100-degree days set in 1980.

Speaking of 1980, Huntsville, Conroe and Hobby Airport have already eclipsed their 1980 records of 100-degree days. 

100-degree days in a row… Tomball, Huntsville and College Station have more than Houston. 

It will be interesting to see how much longer College Station’s streak will last.  It needs to go 11 more days to tie the all-time record of 30 days set in 1998.  It can do it. The high-pressure ridge, while moving west next week, will still bring abnormally high temperatures.

Why Is The Drought This Bad? When Will It End?
August 16, 2011

I get asked this question every day, so with this posting I’ll try to explain why this is happening and what will change it.

A few things to understand: Since Hurricane Ike in September 2008, we’ve been below average in receiving rain. Thus, our drought has been going on for three years, but it got really bad starting in February of this year. Jan. 24, 2011, was the last time we received more than 1 inch of rain (1.94” fell that day.) February through May were extremely dry in southeast Texas, and our state and our drought went into a tail spin.

Monthly Totals:
End of Winter
February: .69″
March: .78”
April: .11”
May: .33”

Since records have been kept, we’ve never had four-straight months where we were unable to receive even an inch of rain. The drought is more than just high pressure. These four months had some elements that came together and put us in the “perfect storm” of not getting storms. First, there was a ridge of high pressure that kept the organized storms tracking to our north. Second, our spring months brought an inversion to Texas. An inversion is a layer of warmer, stable air in the upper atmosphere that prevents storms from forming. Third, the jet stream was abnormally fast these months. That kept the rain that did form moving, so we couldn’t get prolonged showers. This fast-moving jet stream brought strong winds into the state too fast to bring rain. These were the months of the record-breaking tornado outbreak and floods in the U.S. The perfect conditions for severe weather, but not for us.

By this time the drought was well established and you have to understand this principle: Drought begets drought. Suffering through these unprecedented dry months actually set in motion a drought that can’t be overcome on its own.

When it is dry, there is more evaporation in the atmosphere. More evaporation leads to hotter temperatures. Hotter temperatures make it drier, and with the dry air you get more evaporation. This leads to more drought. It’s a vicious cycle.

Monthly Totals:
June: .92”
July: 2.98” (Normal)
August, so far: .07”

It’s always hot in the summer, but this year is different. The drought has actually brought hotter temperatures. The drought and heat feed off each other. While we did receive a normal amount of rain in July, it didn’t help with the drought or heat. Our rainfall deficit for the last 365 days is about 30” and one average month doesn’t make a dent.

A lot has been made about the high-pressure ridge this summer. Yes, it is a big factor, but most of the winter, spring and summer it wasn’t right on top of us. The high pressure is close enough to bring in sinking air, similar to an inversion, but we’ve had plenty of opportunities to get rain in the last seven months and nothing forms.

There are three drought busters: a hurricane/tropical storm, change of seasons and a change of the weather pattern. A change of season won’t help much because fall fronts won’t bring enough rain. We had plenty of fronts in February, but most brought strong winds and not much rain. A weather pattern change will help, but we’ll need a prolonged wet pattern. It will have to last months. The quick fix is a hurricane or tropical storm. There is no guarantee we get hit this summer, but I’ve never received so many emails of people hoping to get a hurricane. Desperate times call for desperate measures. How long will the drought last? No one knows for certain, but it can last several years. We need to pray for rain.

Hurricane Names
August 11, 2011

This question came from one of our viewers.  If you’d like your question featured on the weather quiz, leave a response here. 

Names are repeated every six years unless it gets retired.  A storm’s name will not be reused if it causes significant damage or a significant amount of deaths and reusing the name would be insensitive to the area affected by the storm.  This year’s names were last used in the record-setting hurricane season of 2005.  The names retired that year were:


Dear Anthony,
I have a question about hurricane names.  I know that there was a hurricane in July 2005 named Emily that hit S. Texas.  My daughter is named after it.  We lived in Florida at the time and we were going to name her Elizabeth but when we heard that there was a storm named Emily, we changed her name.  We had just suffered through Hurricane Dennis in Panama City, Florida.  Is there a rule about reusing hurricane names?
Stephanie Sapp
Conroe, TX

To view past weather quiz answers click here:

Past Weather Quiz Answers

Dust Devils In Katy
August 10, 2011

Photo by: Jen Blackburn, Cinco Ranch

You don’t see to many of these in southeast Texas, but a dust devil formed in Katy.  You’ll usually see these in the desert southwest where it is hot and dry, but our weather has resembled more of a desert this year than the tropical climate we are used to.  Dust devils form on hot, dry days.  The surface of the ground is hot and that air is less dense than the “cooler” air around it, so it begins to rise.  Because of the uneven surface heating, it rises in bubbles.  Cooler air from above rushes to fill the voids left by the bubbles and causes a spin.  These are different from tornadoes because tornadoes form from the base of thunderstorm clouds and rotate toward the ground.  Dust devils are almost always weak, from a few miles per hour to 70 mph at the most, and rarely cause damage.   

You can send your pictures to:

To view other hotshot pictures, click here:

Hotshot Photos 2011

100 Degrees 8 Days and Counting
August 9, 2011

As of Tuesday morning, we have endured 19 100-degree days in Houston this year.  It’s basically four times our average of five 100-degree days a year, but short of the record set in 1980.

The streak of eight in a row puts us in fourth place of longest 100-degree streaks.  Since Aug. 1 we’ve been either 100, 101 or 102 degrees.  We would need to hit 100 degrees every day this week though Sunday to tie 1980’s record.

Besides the 100-degree temperatures this month, we are now the hottest YEAR on record with an average high of 72.2 degrees.  This ties us with 1911.  After today, we will stand alone on top.

Of course, the drier ground makes it hotter. We are also the driest year on record, 18 inches of rain below normal.  It’s taken two and a half years to get the drought this bad. Unless we get a drought buster, like a tropical system, it will take a long time to dig ourselves out of this hole.

We Desperately Need the Rain
August 8, 2011

Photo by: Shelly Parsley, Lake Houston

This is a bench that usually overlooks water, today it is a sea of weeds.

Photo by: Jim Bunt, Canyon Lake at the Guadalupe River

Usually you can’t see the ladder to get out of the water.

Drought Worsens
August 8, 2011

It’s good Jim got here in 1957. That year ended a seven-year drought and some brutally hot temperatures. Usually, the way we get rain in the summer is from sea breeze thunderstorms that spark up in the afternoon. There have been two problems with that this year. First, the ridge of high pressure has been influencing us by bringing in sinking air. That acts to prevent storms from forming. Second, the drought affects temperatures and rain. We’ve been in a drought since Hurricane Ike hit in September 2008. We’ve been getting drier and drier for two and a half years. The combination of dry soils and high pressure creates a weather pattern that brings less rain and hotter temperatures. Look at the graph below and see just how dry June 2011 was compared to the previous 100 years. The first six months of 2011 were the driest first half of any year on record, and it’s not even close. The only hope is to have a tropical system bring heavy rain because our weather pattern won’t change the rest of the summer.

SE Texas Drought
August 4, 2011

Not only is it dangerously hot, but I don’t have rain in the forecast for the next two weeks.  Tony Tarver sent me these pictures chronicling the water level going down at Lake Houston.

From Tony: “This is how the drought is affecting the water level at Lake Houston. The first picture is my wife kayaking in front of a pier. At this time, the lake water level was near-normal, although already in decline. I shot the second picture June 30 of my wife kayaking in front of the same pier nearly three months later. At this time the entire pier was out of water. Today there is no need for a kayak, as you can see.”

The Shawshank Redemption Tree
August 2, 2011


Last Friday afternoon a thunderstorm moved through Mansfield, Ohio, at 2:30 p.m. producing straight-line winds.  It severely damaged the tree made famous by the film “The Shawshank Redemption.”  The tree is on private property but that never stopped people from visiting it and even proposing under its vast branches.  Half of those branches are now gone.  The owner of the property has not said if the tree will be removed due to the damage.     

To view past weather quiz answers click here:

Past Weather Quiz Answers

Squirrel Watch 2011
August 1, 2011


Photo by: Donna Herion, Spring

Caption contest!  Person who describes this picture the best wins a Local 2 shirt.   

To see other squirrel watch photos click here:

Squirrel Watch 2011