Earliest arctic front?

Keep the jackets handy

CREDIT: SarahEmmerson79 on Click2Pins

HOUSTON – Temperatures tumbled overnight from a near-record high yesterday of 89° (the record is 90° from 1991) to a low this morning of 46°--a nice 43° drop in around 15 hours. As we forecasted this last week with strong certainty, I got this email:

What is the earliest date for this kind of cold front? It just seems a little early, but I am not complaining!


I don’t think anyone is complaining (although, yes, it’s a little brisk and breezy out there!). I blogged a couple of weeks ago about when our first cold fronts arrive each fall, but I haven’t come across anyone who counts the arctic fronts. I can only surmise that definition as more of a blue norther front -- one that drops the temperature a solid 25° or more with the air mass originating in the arctic regions of Canada. I don’t actually count the arctic fronts as they come in each year, but I did a little data dive for an answer. Interestingly, I ran across what I think is our earliest arctic front and it wasn’t that long ago -- the year 2000. Take a look at the temperature data from September 2000. The high on Sept. 24 was 95° and the next morning dropped to 53° with another drop the next morning to 49°. That is some chilly air in place.

Temperatures dropped from 95° to 53° overnight! CREDIT: NOAA Regional Climate Centers

I looked back to the archives for the surface maps of 9/24/2000 and 9/25/2000 (also a Sunday/Monday) to match up and, as you’d expect, the cold front moves just off the coast like today with a nice big high pressure over Colorado. I’ve highlighted them on the archive map:

CREDIT: National Oceanic Atmospheric Association archives
CREDIT: National Oceanic Atmospheric Association archives

So our front today, Judy, is not at all early. However, finding record lows in October for this century is hard to come by. Our October record lows are mostly in the 30s and 40s during the month and they all happened before 1996! That is telling as far as a warming climate is concerned. Saying that, I did find an exception just a few years ago as our temperatures dropped from 83° to 49° Oct. 26/27 of 2017 and tumbled to a record low 35° the morning of Oct. 29.

Interestingly, November and December 2017 had plenty of warm days, but a lot of cold mornings in the 20s and 30s. We actually had SNOW on Dec. 8 -- 1.5″ at Hobby Airport and .7″ at IAH! Check out our Click2Houston story here. Christmas Day had a high of 54° and low of 36°. Then January 2018 proved very cold with a morning low the 17th of 19°! The cold stuck around through mid-February and then we were climbing back to mild weather. So, does this arctic cold front today open the gates for a chilly next few months? I think it does. And after our summer, we deserve it!

Keep those jackets handy!


Email me with questions and comments!

About the Authors:

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