When can we expect a Houston freeze? Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley has the outlook

I’ve had a number of folks ask when our ‘first freeze’ date happens in Houston and, spoiler alert, there is no exact answer to that question. But we can get some guidance from the past, so doing a little data digging can help. You might recall from just this past Monday I made a big deal about the fact that our earliest snow occurred on November 13, 2018--not so long ago--and we had freezing temperatures (31° and 30°) the next two days. So cold snaps happen!

RELATED: Earliest Arctic Front?

In fact, our earliest freezes for Bush, Hobby and Galveston are below:

Earliest Freeze Dates

Interestingly, that 1989 year at Bush went haywire in December when we dropped to 7° and had an unforgettably cold Christmas. And in December 1951, Hobby had four days below freezing dropping as low as 28°. The point being that early cold snaps may be predictors of more to come!

Clearly, those freeze dates above are past but ‘generally’ speaking our part of Texas experiences its first freeze in mid to late November:

November is the average for a first freeze
For Southeast Texas, Mid to late November is the average for a first freeze

The problem is that looking for a ‘first freeze date’ is like asking when our first 100° day will be in summer--we just don’t know exactly although we do expect at least one triple-digit day. However, some summers we simply don’t get them. And, in fact, by the calendar starting from January 1, 2023 we’ve yet to have a freezing temperature at Bush or Hobby! So, for now, we’re in a no freeze year!

RELATED: When does our first cold front usually arrive?

I reached out to meteorologist Dan Reilly at the Houston National Weather Service and he offered a more statistical annual average for Bush and Hobby which I’ll show you below (and then break it down):

Statistical freeze likelihood for freezes at Bush/IAH
Statistical freeze likelihood for freezes at Bush/IAH

Those are some tables of information, aren’t they? Here’s a simpler way to look at all that.

At Bush, there is a 10% chance to freeze before November 17th. There is a 30% chance we’ll have a freeze by December 1st. There is a 60% chance we’ll have a freeze by December 15th. There is an 80% chance we’ll have a freeze by January 1st.

NWS Houston meteorologist Sean Luchs offered this quick glimpse showing our earliest and latest freezes: the column on the left is our first fall freeze while on the right is our last spring freeze. It shows an average freeze date for Bush of December 9th and for Hobby of December 14th.

CREDIT: NWS Houston meteorologist Sean Luchs

Of course, some years don’t freeze and we can have 80° on Christmas (2016). For this year? I see no freeze between now and December 1st and with a strong El Nino in place we’re likely to push those freezes to the ‘fewer and later’ category. One part of the world to watch closely is Siberia and the Arctic--if the polar vortex weakens that can send frigid air our way quickly. Right now, Dr. Judah Cohen, an expert on the subject, is leaning toward a milder pattern through the end of the year (if you are feeling scientific you can read more here).

The best I can do is keep you up to date on when any arctic outbreak looks to head our way! And it’s always smart to be prepared to protect pipes and cover plants--we know how those materials can disappear from shelves at first notice!


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About the Authors:

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