The Heat is On: Why is it So Hot During the Texas Hill Country Summers?

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Tony Maples Photography


The Texas Hill Country summers seem an endless string of blisteringly hot days that residents don’t just endure, they survive. Why do other parts of the country get mild summers while Texas bakes? The answer lies in the climate and the many factors that affect it. Finding out why it’s so hot may not make the heat more bearable, but you’ll rest assured that we still have better winters than most other parts of the country.

Weather vs. Climate

Weather Map NOAA Showing Weather Conditions in 2007

Photo: NOAA

Weather and climate are two different things, though some use the term interchangeably. The former only refers to the current conditions. While the latter refers to the overall conditions in the long term. For instance, harsh winters and mild summers refers to climate. A lot of snow next week refers to the weather. Use this mnemonic device to remember the difference. You can determine whether you need an umbrella based on the weather. Though some days may have milder temperatures than average during the Texas Hill Country summers, typically, the summers will always be hot.

Hill Country Climate

2007 Flooding Near Georgetown, Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Hill Country has a semi-arid climate. Winters tend to be mild, though slightly cooler than the Texas Gulf Coast and not as cold as the Panhandle. Summers may have higher temperatures, but since the Hill Country has lower humidity than the Gulf Coast, it feels cooler.

Like the temperatures, rainfall for this region, 48 inches annually, falls between the 60 inches on the Gulf Coast to 32 inches of precipitation in the north. Gulf moisture fuels the storms that can bring torrential downpours, which contribute to the annual precipitation. Tornadoes and floods frequently plague the Hill Country, with floods the more common danger. Floods prove problematic in the low-lying areas between hills in the area, and the numerous creeks and rivers in the area can quickly overflow in flash flooding.

Precipitation Factors

Anvil Shaped Thundercloud

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Multiple things affect the Texas Hill Country’s climate and subsequently its rainfall. Since the Hill Country is near the Gulf of Mexico, tropical moisture can fuel thunderstorms along a cold front. A cold front is a barrier of cooler air. When it moves into a region, warm air gets thrust upward into the atmosphere. The moisture-laden warm air builds clouds. If enough energy is present, the rain clouds continue to build into towering thunderheads. These thunderstorms may produce heavy rains, hail, lightning and tornadoes, especially in the spring and fall.

Temperature Factors

Texas Hill Country Summers Can Reach Over 100 Degrees F

Photo: Flickr/Ray Bodden

Texas Hill Country summers tend to be warm due to the southerly location of Texas. Locations further north tend to have cooler summer temperatures. But Dallas, in north Texas, can get warmer than the Hill Country. Why does that happen? The secret is the Gulf of Mexico.

When the wind blows from the southeast, it blows moist, warm air over the area. The moisture keeps temperatures from reaching the 100s, as can happen in a drier, more continental climate, like Dallas’s. This somewhat moderates the temperatures of the Texas Hill Country summers, but the effect is not as strong as it is along the coast.

How to Combat the Heat

If you tire of the heat during the summer, you may hope for a tropical system to come to Texas, where it can bring a lot of cooling rain. But this comes at the price of flash flooding in the Hill Country. Instead, keep cool by sticking close to air conditioned areas, drinking lots of water, and opting to go outside during the cooler morning or evening hours.

While there’s not much you can do about the heat, you can survive it until cooler fall weather comes into the region with cold fronts that begin to enter the area in September. Until then, stock up on ice cream and iced tea.