The most popular question we get time of year is THE question: Will it snow this season? Considering the current global weather pattern, it's unlikely for winter of 2017/2018. But, there's a possible loose correlation between years with tropical systems and years with snow! (Harvey did park over our region this summer.)

NOAA has declared that persistently cooler-than-normal waters off of Ecuador in the equatorial eastern Pacific ocean have become an identifiable, large oceanic pattern nicknamed, "La Nina." This affects weather patterns around the western hemisphere due to the heat transfer process affecting cloud development, rainfall and trade winds. That translates to sunnier and warmer Houston winters.

That's not to say it won't snow this winter in Houston, but in past La Nina years, southeast Texas sees warmer-than-normal DEC/JAN/FEB with lower-than-normal precipitation totals.

A Metro bus navigates in the snow in Houston in 2009.
A Metro bus navigates in the snow in Houston in 2009.

Let's go back to that possible correlation between tropical systems and snow: Is there one? Probably not. A tropical system can briefly perturb the jet stream and pull-down cooler air from the north but it's an effect which lasts a few weeks instead of several months. A late-summer hurricane pattern change wouldn't last long enough to bring snow to Houston that winter. The cooling effects from Harvey have since passed. That said, we've seen time and time again that snow happens in the winters following tropical systems. Hmm ...

  • 2008 Hurricane Ike hit Houston.
    • On December 10th, Houston got 1.4"
  • 2004 hurricane season, the dissipating Ivan made a final pass near Houston.
    • Christmas Eve '04, <1" for Houston fell, 11" in El Campo, 13" Brazoria!
  • 1989, Hurricane Jerry hit Galveston as a Cat 1.
    • Houston saw nearly 2" on December 22nd that year.

I could go on ... Of course, there have been years Houston sees no tropical activity and it still snows. There have also been years when Houston gets walloped by a hurricane with no snow to speak of the following winter. While there's no real meteorological correlation we can identify associating tropical weather with winter weather, each winter, there's always a chance. Yes, I'm saying there's a chance. -Brooks
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Meteorologist Brooks Garner, KHOU 11 News. (2017)
Meteorologist Brooks Garner, KHOU 11 News. (2017)