Frank's Weather or Not: When did Houston become Seattle?

By Frank Billingsley - Chief Meteorologist

HOUSTON - Count 'em up for February: Fog was reported on twenty days this past month and of those we had 8 days of Dense Fog, reducing visibility less than 1/4 mile! And that's just Houston. In Galveston, where sea fog can reign for days, there were twenty-two foggy days with 15 of them producing Dense Fog!

By the way, January wasn't much better with 17 foggy days and remember that whole "fog mixing with fireworks smoke" on New Year's Day?

So far, 2019 has looked more like Seattle than Houston. In fact, Seattle reported only 17 foggy days in February and 15 in January, so we are, um, winning? Why? El Nino!

The Red colors are the WARM colors!

I talked about this a couple of weeks ago. El Nino is that phenomenon describing a warmer than normal Pacific Ocean and in terms of 'strength' this one is fairly weak. Let's call it a 1 on a scale of 3. But even weak means the warm water is there and that warms the air above it which rises (taking the moisture up with it) and rides right along the southern Jet Stream over Mexico and into Texas. Look at the Jet Stream right over us on Groundhog Day (remember, no shadow was seen!):

So there is the warm, moist culprit, but the temperatures at the ground have to be on the cool side for the fog layer to form (warm air over cold air or water). In fact, mid 50s to low 60s for minimums tend to be the "perfect" temperature for dense fog formation and that's exactly when we saw it in February.

Look, it gets cold in winter, that's winter--so we can't blame winter--it's ultimately the warm Pacific moisture supply that is the fly in the ointment. So what is to become of El Nino? If you look at the models, it will continue to weaken by summer which is a shame because the same El Nino Winds during the tropical season are a hindrance to storm formation. Here's the model forecast, just follow the red line and you'll see it moves DOWN:

El Nino is often our El Amigo....but not this year! Bottom line....more fog problems this month!

Frank

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