Hurricane season-ending cold front

HOUSTON - Houston's hurricane season may be over. Maybe. Don't let your guard down but history teaches us that once a big cold front pushes all the way to Florida, it effectively shuts down Houston's local hurricane season. Fronts like this one can establish a semi-permanent regional weather pattern which deflects any incoming tropical systems. As always in weather, there are exceptions (and there certainly could be an exception this year), but generally, once a front blows through, our statistical chance for getting a hurricane goes down.

Why is this? Well first, it's important to note that hurricane season is the time when tropical systems are most likely to develop. In the Atlantic basin (Gulf included) it's the six month period between June 1st and November 30th. Hurricanes can and do form outside of hurricane season. We saw that with Hurricane Alex, which formed in January of this year. It's key to understand that the hurricane season is not a hard-edged, defined period, but more of a rough guide. It's safe to conclude that it can essentially begin -- and end -- at different times for different areas.

For example, Houston's climate and pattern is vastly different than Bermuda's even though we are umbrellaed under the same, "hurricane season." This is because Houston lays on the western edge of the Atlantic basin and experiences autumnal cold fronts much earlier than locations in the middle of the Atlantic or in the Caribbean Sea. Hurricanes commonly re-curve away from areas where autumn has set-in, and aim instead for more humid locations outside of that frontal zone.

One example of this re-curve effect will be with future Hurricane Matthew. If we didn't get this cold front today, Matthew might threaten Texas. The system today is a tropical wave, but it could become a major hurricane before the week's out. As it tracks west, it'll mostly likely bounce off of our cold front (which then will be near Florida) like a tennis ball striking a racket, and deflect away from Texas (and hopefully away from the entire US.)

Finally, a quick distinguishing note: we often describe how tropical systems can form along cold fronts and return to harm Texas. We saw this in Tropical Storm Allison and later, Hurricane Humberto. In both cases, the cold front stalled just offshore. This week's front does go all the way, so future-Matthew shouldn't be a threat.

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-Brooks


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