Growing seasons are growing longer

My oak is finally filling with leaves!

HOUSTON – The picture above is my oak tree I was complaining about two weeks ago when it dropped all those lovely pollinating catkins everywhere (yes, those yellow smudgy things). Now it’s leafing and I’m hopeful the pollination process has stopped. This seems early, so I began to wonder when the growing season really began this year.

A growing season is defined as the time after the LAST FREEZE to the time of the NEXT FREEZE in a given area. For us, usually that is March to December. Although this year most of us have not had a freezing temperature recorded! I haven’t at my house near the Galleria area. I looked at some official numbers:

Bush/IAH Airport dropped to 34° on Jan. 14 and 27, then 33° on Feb. 18, but NO freezing temperature this year. Sugar Land plunged to 32° on Jan. 26, but that was the only freezing morning. Pearland’s lowest drop this year was only 37° on Feb. 18! To the west, Brenham fell to freezing four mornings in January with the lowest temp this year sitting at 31° on Feb. 18.

What about Conroe? We all know Conroe seems to record lower temperatures than anyone else. Conroe dropped to or below 32° nine mornings this year with the lowest being 27° twice -- once on Jan. 27, and then on Feb. 18.

I see no freezes for us the rest of spring, so effectively our growing season began the afternoon of Feb. 18. IF, and this applies to a lot of us, IF you even had a freeze at all. Certainly the big drop last December over Christmas weekend was enough to suffice. In fact, in 2022 our growing season fell between March 14 and Dec. 18. In 2021, we had the BIG freeze but never dropped to freezing after Feb. 20 again -- not all year! The rest of 2021 stayed above-freezing.

And if you go back to 2020 we had an extremely long growing season from Feb. 27 to Dec. 1.

Climate Central has been studying the nation’s growing seasons from 1990 to 2021 and you can see here how the country’s season is expanding since 1970, an average of 15 days per year. Some growing seasons have extended as many as 60 days.

Study from Climate Central

Climate Central includes a drop down for states and cities to see just how certain areas have changed. Dallas, for instance, has increased its growing season by three weeks since 1970.

Climate Central notes an increase in the DFW growing season of three weeks!

Houston is not included because of those stats I mentioned above -- we just continue to see very long growing seasons. What’s important about this study is that longer growing seasons mean longer pollen seasons. Given some 25% of us suffer from allergies, we may be in for those sneezes starting earlier each year and lasting longer. A full year of no freezing weather is certainly possible for Houston in the future! As of late, weather continues to be extreme and, at least for our area recently, extreme cold is followed by long periods of extreme warmth.

You’ve probably heard the adage that “Climate is what you expect, but weather is what you get.” These days, it’s hard to know what to expect from season to season!

You can go here to see Climate Central’s full report on the expanding growing seasons. For the interactive tool from Climate Central, check that out right here! Have a wonderful weekend and super spring break!


Email me with ideas, questions and comments!

About the Authors:

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