The Effects of Wind Direction
on Houston Weather


What effect does wind have on the weather? The answer to that question is dependant on your location; from the mountains to the coastal regions wind can have significant effect on our weather. I will discuss the effects of the wind on weather in Houston, Texas.

When you think of weather in Houston the first thing to come to mind is hot and humid. The most predominant wind in the Houston area is from the southeast, this forms during the Summer months as the Bermuda High influences the weather pattern across Houston.

The most notable weather event from a southeast wind will bring in large amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, thus driving humidity levels sky high. This will can lead to very high heat index readings in the afternoon.

The second weather issue with the southeasterly wind is the sea breeze. The sea breeze sets up across Southeast Texas on a daily basis in the summer, a pseudo front or sea breeze front forms and the lift along with the moisture brought into the region from the southeast wind helps to fire off isolated thunderstorms across the region. While these storms are very rarely severe they can bring heavy rain and flash flooding to low lying areas.

The sea breeze storms tend to move very slowly or are stationary, these stronger storms will sit over areas of the city and bring heavy rainfall amounts to the area. This rainfall leads to many flooding problems across the area. Houston's elevation ranges from 46 feet at Hobby Airport in the south part of town to 96 feet at Intercontinental Airport to the north. The drainage problems are a major issue for a large part of the city as the elevation being so low does not allow steep enough slopes to drain the water fast enough.

These drainage problems are apparent all over the city, but none more so on the west side of town along the I-10 corridor. In these areas large amounts of rain will add up quickly and cause major flooding under the highways in the underpasses, the flash flooding that occurs in these area has been responsible for many cars being found completely underwater, and on some occasions even cause deaths.

The other flooding issue is with the bayous around town, many times we have seen the bayous over flowing their banks and helping to add to the flooding issues in the city, including the downtown area. The bayous have overflowed the banks and have flooded large parks in the area, such as George Bush Park. These kind of floods end up causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and disrupts all in the area.

Another problem that you will find with the southeast wind in Houston is Sea Fog. This setup occurs during the late fall and winter months and can reduce visibilities down to zero. This is more of a problem for the southern portions of the city as the fog does tend to advect into these areas, however you will find the fog will advect into the downtown area at times. These reduced visibilities lead to very long traffic delays and worst of all car accidents.

As you can see, the southeast wind definitely effects the weather in the Houston the most significantly. I believe we need to put our engineers to work to help alleviate the major flooding problems found across the city to make it safer for everyone.

The next significant wind that effects the Houston area would be the wind from the southwest. These downsloping winds off the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Mexico. High pressure will form over the Great Plains and block any type of weather system from moving across the area. This what brings the hot and dry summer heat waves to the Houston area.

The main issue with these winds is the hot, dry weather it brings to the area. The southwest wind will help temperatures climb into triple digits and will not allow the Sea Breeze to form in the afternoon.

A large problem during the summer months and associated with the hot, dry air brought in from the southwest wind is Ozone. When you get the hot temperatures, stagnant air and little to no wind combined with all the pollution, you will get dangerous Ozone readings across the city. The effects of this danger is as a lung irritant and will effect predominately those with breathing problems. You will see stretches during the summer when there are Ozone warnings issued over a period of days.

As I mentioned before, another problem that can be caused by the southwest wind is the potential for drought conditions to setup. The effects of the dry and hot air moving across the area can lead to water rationing and will lead to burn bans being out in place across the area. These extreme temperatures will also lead to many heat related issues, such as heat exhaustion or heat strokes.

I think measures need to be taken to help the needy avoid the heat by providing air conditioned areas during heat waves, fans in their homes and fresh water to help avoid dehydration. I would also like to see more measure taken to lower the Ozone levels and develop a detection device for home use to help those with breathing problems.

A Northwest wind is typically found in the area during the fall and winter months as they tend to accompany the cold fronts moving across the region. These winds are usually found after a front passes through the area as high pressure sets up across the Plains and Midwest dragging the cooler and drier air into the Houston area.

A frontal passage will bring gusty northwest winds to the area, these will last for no more than two days. The major problem with these gutsy winds is the wind chills will tend to drop into the mid teens to low 20's, this is like the Arctic in Houston. you will find people bundle in their parkas and this also brings one of the few times we get to use our fireplaces.

The severe weather you see in the Houston area is associated with these frontal passages. We have two severe weather seasons in the Houston area, Spring and Fall, while we don't get severe weather as they do in the Plains, we do get a couple of Tornado Warnings a year and some large hail.

As we move from fall to winter the average number of cold fronts increases, this increases the chances of cooler weather across the area. There is only a couple of hard freezes a year in Houston, with the outlying areas to the North more susceptible to this weather.

The big danger with the northwest wind as mentioned is the cold weather it brings, this especially effects those who can't afford the high heating costs, many deaths are reported during the winter due to exposure from the cold or deaths from fires started by space heaters.

We need to make an effort in the winter months to provide more shelter for those that are homeless to keep them warm and get started with a campaign to check space heaters and teach people how to properly use them. The last significant wind that effects the Houston area is a Northeast wind. The Northeast wind will bring dry and cooler air to the area, however not a big cool down.

This wind will bring in back door cold fronts, these fronts moving in from the Northeast will tend to bring light showers as they move into the area. These showers are concentrated along the frontal boundary itself, thus bringing very little accumulation in rainfall.

The wind can effect the weather in many different ways, these are some of the ways the wind effects the weather in the Houston area. As you can see lives are affected in many ways from summer heat to winter cold to flooding caused from storms that don't move. I think as Meteorologists we should take it upon ourselves to help educate the public more about the affects wind can have on our lives.