Heat? Check. Rain? Check. Hurricanes? Maybe Not. Summer in Houston, 2012

If you don't like Houston, probably at the top of your list of reasons why is the summer. For those not accustomed to the -- let's call it "sticky" -- weather the Bayou City offers from July through September each year, it can be a brutal three or four months. Of course, for people like me who have never had a winter mix of snow, ice and some decomposing God knows what ooze into their shoes in January in a northern big city, I'm pretty sure I'd be about as happy with winter there as you are here.

But, a more menacing reason for not liking it here probably comes in the shape of a hurricane, and, honestly, most of us are with you on that one. Very few people actually like hurricanes. Staff writer John Nova Lomax loves them, but I have long suspected his blood is a mixture of silt-laden Gulf saltwater and the roux used to make cajun gumbo, so he's the exception.

Fortunately, there's a better than average chance Texas will be spared one of those this year despite what has been a busy start to the Atlantic hurricane season.

The reason: El Niño.

As Chron science reporter Eric Berger, who we profiled a few weeks back, explains in an interesting story about the phenomena, this warming of the Pacific Ocean naturally creates abnormally high wind shear across the Atlantic basin, which serves to inhibit hurricane formation. In simple terms, high winds in the upper atmosphere rip storms apart before they can even get going.

That normally results in below average years for named tropical storms, which is what is anticipated this summer. It doesn't always mean that Texas is clear of hurricanes, however. Hurricane Alicia struck during an El Niño year, as have others, but it does tend to lessen the chances overall.

There is more good news for the summer weather, too. As you might have noticed from the rain over the weekend, Houston is not suffering from the unrelenting drought conditions we had in 2011. In fact, the entire state is no longer in extreme drought conditions and we here in Houston are on pace for a slightly wetter than usual year. And while it may have been seriously hot here the last couple weeks, that was part of a nasty ridge of high pressure that has brought record highs across most of the U.S. from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast.

El Niño also tends to bring with it cooler, wetter winters for our region, decreasing further our chances of the dry air and warm temperatures that made life here a little more uncomfortable than usual last year.

Unfortunately, this is still summer in the South. If you thought El Niño was going to rain rose petals on us and gift us with 70-degree weather, you are out of luck. If you want that, try California. But, fewer hurricanes is a good thing, as is a cold a/c unit.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke