Weather Week: Humidity Returns and the Tropics Begin Stirring

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Courtesy National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Chantal forecast track.
In 2011, during the midst of the state's worst drought in decades, Houston was without something we who live here have come to expect: rain. People I have spoken with who have never visited here have this vision of Houston as Dry Gulch, a cowboy town complete with 10-gallon hats and tumbleweeds. The cowboy hats only show up once a year around rodeo time and, as for weather, well, it ain't dry, that's for sure. Our weather has more in common with a rainforest than it does a desert.

Which is why it was so disconcerting in 2011 when the skies were clear and the temperatures were hot for so long. The rain showers that moved through the area between July the Fourth and Monday may not have been of the soaking variety, but they were far more indicative of a typical, steamy Houston summer. More notably, they were the result of tropical moisture, something we saw none of in 2011.

That tropical moisture was the result of a weak disturbance that crossed the area after traversing the Gulf of Mexico without even developing into a depression. But, it was enough to bring some much needed rain to the area.

Last week brought extremely dry conditions to the entire Houston area. Daily humidity levels in the 30-40 percent range were atypical for this time of year, but brought rather cool and pleasant evenings. With higher humidity levels reasserting themselves, we'll go back to sticky and damp with chances of rain most days, though not much.

The forecast calls for partly cloudy and hot with highs in the upper 90s most of the week and a 20-30 percent chance of afternoon showers all week -- classic summer Houston weather. Now that we are more than a week into July, it can be noted that we are also less than 90 days from October when the weather around here begins to radically change, so just hang in there or take an extended vacation.

Watching the Tropics

The Atlantic hurricane season's third named storm, Tropical Storm Chantal, is barreling towards the Lesser Antilles. Its rapid movement coupled with high wind shear in its future makes the forecast rather bleak for Chantal. The National Hurricane Center does not believe it will ultimately reach hurricane strength and it will probably be of little threat to the U.S. coastline. The only concern would be rainfall to the Florida peninsula at this point.

But, it does help to underscore the fact that the tropics are warming up. A storm this deep in the Atlantic this time of year indicates that conditions are good for storm formation. In all likelihood, it will be a few before we see any real threats of hurricanes to the U.S. coastline (if at all), but we are just over a month away from the beginning of the peak of hurricane season, so better to be prepared.

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