Thanksgiving Day weather in Houston

While out riding our bikes on Thanksgiving Eve day, one of my children asked me, “Daddy… it’s almost December… why is it so hot outside?”  So, it got me thinking.  What type of weather have we experienced over the years in Houston, Texas.

Houstonians celebrated a rather warm and muggy Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 2015 this year.  Officially, the high temperature for the day was 77°F, and the low temperature was 66°F at Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH).  So, how did the temperature on this Thanksgiving Day compare to others?

Given that it’s a late November celebration, Thanksgiving Day weather in Houston tends to be pleasant as the city’s average high temperature is in the upper 60s to near 70°F while the average low temperature is in the upper 40s to near 50°F:

IAH Thanksgiving Day normal high low temps

Since the year 2000, Houston’s Thanksgivings have seen the following temperature ranges:

IAH Thanksgiving Day temperature ranges 2000-2015

So, while 2015 seemed warm, it wasn’t that different from what we have experienced in recent history.

Houston’s warmest Thanksgiving occurred on November 22, 1973.  The high temperature that day reached a record for the date of 87°F.  [Sidenote: Most Houstonians know that very warm temps in the Fall and Winter usually precede cold frontal passages as warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico feeds into the area on strong southeasterly winds in advance of fronts.  And that warm Thanksgiving day in 1973 was no exception as the high temp the next day, on November 23rd, 1973 was only 55°F!]  On the other hand, Houston’s chilliest Thanksgiving occurred on November 23, 1972.  The high temperature that day only reached 44°F!  Here are the top 10 warmest and coldest Thanksgiving Day high temperatures recorded in Houston since 1930:

IAH Thanksgiving Day top 10 warmest coldest

So, while Thanksgiving in 2015 was warm, it didn’t even make the top 10 warmest.  In fact, it didn’t even crack the top 20 warmest!

Since the year 1930, here are some interesting facts about high temperatures in Houston on Thanksgiving Day:

  • The warmest Thanksgiving Day in recent memory (since 2000) occurred in 2010.  The 83°F high temperature mark in 2010 happened to be the 5th warmest Thanksgiving Day.
  • The 77°F high temperature in 2015 is tied for the 20th warmest Thanksgiving Day.
  • There have been 13 Thanksgiving Day celebrations that fell on November 26th.  The warmest November 26th Thanksgiving Day was in 1964 when the thermometer reached 84°F.  That high temperature is tied for the 2nd warmest Thanksgiving Day.
  • The last time the temperature was warmer than the 77°F posted this year was in 2008 when the temp reached 80°F.

Houston has also seen some wild low-to-high, or “diurnal” temperature swings on Thanksgiving Day.  Since 1930, the average Thanksgiving Day high temperature has been 68°F while the average low temperature has been 48°F.  This is an average diurnal temperature range of 20°F.  Often times, big temperature swings occur with a frontal passage that same day, as cold air takes over the warm, moist air that had been drawn into the air from the Gulf of Mexico in advance of the front.

This year, the diurnal temperature range was only 11°F (77°F high temp, 66°F low temp).  In recent past, the 2010 Thanksgiving experienced quite a swing in temperatures as an arctic cold front moved through during the day.  After dressing for an outside temperature that topped out at 83°F early in the day, Houstonians quickly had to pack on the winter clothing as the temperature dropped 35 degrees to a low of 48°F later that evening. However, the greatest Thanksgiving Day diurnal temperature range was 36 degrees, which occurred on November 26, 1936.  Temps began that day below freezing at 30°F, but rose quickly to a relatively balmy high of 66°F.  Here are the top 10 largest temperature swings on Thanksgiving Day in Houston since 1930:

IAH Thanksgiving Day top 10 diurnal temp ranges

[Sources: National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office Houston/Galveston, National Climate Data Center (NCDC)]

[References to data between 1930 and 1969 derive from observations at Houston’s William P Hobby Airport. References to data after 1969 derive from observations at Intercontinental Airport Houston.]

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