A drop in whose bucket?

courtesy click2houston.com

Climate Central pushed out a “hot topic” graphic this week illustrating the 50-year rise in August temperatures here in Houston. The average temperature is higher by almost five degrees:

From 1970 to this year the average August temperature in Houston has risen almost 5 degrees. Graphic courtesy Climate Central

With that, Climate Central points out that Houston only had 0.83″ of rain in August which at IAH is exactly correct. Here’s the proof from the National Weather Service records and I’ve highlighted the paltry rain amount in the lower right-hand corner:

I've highlighted the precip amount for August at IAH. Courtesy National Weather Service

Climate Central goes on to note that: “This August, Houston was hotter than normal and much drier than normal. The average temperature of 86.0°F was 0.9° above normal, and the 0.83 inches of precipitation was 17% of the normal amount of rain...This year stood out as the fourth driest August in Houston in data going back to 1970.”

Indeed, the “normal” rainfall for Bush-IAH in August is 3.76″.

But dry by whose bucket?

-Look at how Bush-IAH rainfall stands up to some other locations around the area for August:

Amounts are all over the place!

As your realtor will tell you “Location, Location, Location”! It’s easy to see that more than an inch of rain was easy to find. In fact, if you look at the whole county, five to almost nine inches of rain in August is easy to find. I’ve highlighted a few locations with well-above average rainfall (the green airplane marking IAH is my own artistic talent at work):

This map is from the Harris County Flood Control District. The green airplane where IAH is credits my own artistic talents.

Clearly, proclaiming 0.83″ as representative of Houston area rainfall this past month is not exactly accurate. I pointed this out to Climate Central and they agreed that it’s important to look at the entire area: highlighting the mesoscale nature of precipitation this time of year is a good way to handle it.

And don’t get me wrong, I highly respect Climate Central. They do great work putting our ever-changing climate into focus so we can understand the changes occurring and, hopefully, do something about it.

So what to do?

We are a county of more than 4 million people (more population than the entire state of Louisiana) and I recently did a report on how different our temperatures can be from neighborhood to neighborhood. You can see just how different our rainfall amounts can be over just a few miles’ distance. When examining our climate and its changes, we can not just look at one rain bucket or just a few reporting stations! We have to examine the whole picture to get a true perspective.

Have a whole lot of fun this Labor Day weekend! Be safe.


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.