When DOES our first cold front usually arrive?

Miss Goldie ready for fall CREDIT: Bonnie Lee Parker on Click2pins

Now that we’ve dusted off those sweaters and actually had at least a brief chance to wear them, the question I always get in August is “When is our first cold front going to get here?” Whether our summer heat is brutal or normal, that is a legitimate question. One year, I guessed “September 14th” and I was right! Strictly a guess.

As it turns out, one of my viewers, Andy Gambos, has been keeping up with our first front arrivals since 1982! Coincidentally, that is as long as I’ve been in the business of weather guessing! Andy has recorded every date of our first front with a pretty simple criteria--the front has to actually CHANGE the way it feels outside. He doesn’t count those weak fronts that get us all excited and then when they finally get here they fall apart. We get those every year. No, we have to actually smell that crisp fall air and innately know that, well, things have finally changed! That’s his criteria and I agree.

After last weekend’s front we got our answer for this year, but how about the last 40 years? Here is the list Andy sent me the other day.

CREDIT: Andy Gambos

This is pretty good, extensive data considering that 30 years is considered enough data to tell us how the climate is behaving. Here are a few nuggets I found in this data:

In the 1980s, ALL of our first cold fronts arrived in September.

In the 1990s, All but one of our first cold fronts arrived in September (1998 being the October exception).

From 2000-2009, eight cold fronts arrived in September and two in October.

From 2010-2019, we were half and half. Five in September and Five in October.

2020-2023, we were half, 2 in September and two in October.

Those arrival times are changing. Our EARLIEST cold front, believe it or not, got here on September 12, 2003 while our LATEST cold front didn’t make it until October 18, 2011 (the year of the monster heat and drought). Although last year was later, too, arriving October 17th, 2022.

And here is what I found really interesting: Almost all of our cold front have arrived right in time for fall--September 21, 22 and 23--in fact, 15 of them since 1982. Eleven fronts have arrived before and twelve after. The most common day for our first cold front? September 22nd, which is most commonly our first day of fall! (And that’s the day I started my TV career back in 1982!) By the way, the time I guessed September 14th for our first front and got it right? That was in 1993. I haven’t guessed right since. But from now on, my answer will be September 22nd!


Smile--another cold front arrives this Friday with more pumpkin patch weather!


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About the Author:

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