Houston, TXTop Climate Change Risks: Heat, Flood, Precipitation

Risk Snapshot

Climate Change Hazard Ratings for Houston, TX

Ratings represent risk relative to North America. 100 is the highest risk for the hazard and 1 is the lowest, but does not indicate no risk. Flood and fire are rated based on the buildings in Houston exposed to these hazards. See hazard sections below and check your address for details.

People in Houston, TX are especially likely to experience increased risks from heat, flood, and precipitation.

Houston is situated next to Galveston bay along the upper Gulf Coast of Texas. Its summer temperatures have been soaring in recent years and coastal hurricanes are growing more destructive. Despite these threats of natural disasters, the Houston housing market is increasingly competitive, although the overall housing supply has been hurt by severe weather events in the area.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused devastating damage in the city, powered by warm waters in the gulf of Mexico. Rising temperatures of gulf waters due to climate change are expected to raise average wind speeds during hurricanes and cause more frequent extreme rainfall, further increasing flood risks. Rising seas will eventually permanently raise water levels in the Buffalo Bayou which runs from the southeast into the center of Houston.

Extreme heat has put a strain on the city’s electric grid and medical systems. In 2030, average temperatures are expected to have risen almost 2 degrees in Houston. However, Houston is also closely connected to the fossil fuel industry as the “Energy Capital of the World.” It is the center of operation for almost every sector of the energy industry and holds nearly a third of America’s oil and gas sector jobs.

Heat risk in Houston, TX

The number of the hottest days in Houston is projected to keep increasing.

In a typical year around 1990, people in Houston, TX experienced about 7 days above 97.2ºF in a year. By 2050, people in Houston are projected to experience an average of about 49 days per year over 97.2ºF.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves, even in places with cooler average temperatures. See more information on heat risk. Everyone can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme heat.

Flood risk in Houston, TX

Buildings at risk in Houston average about a 32% chance of a flood about 1.0 feet deep over 30 years.

Of 1675 census tracts in Houston, TX, there are 1567 where more than half of buildings have significant risk from storm surge, high tide flooding, surface (pluvial) flooding, and riverine (fluvial) flooding. Property owners can check a specific address for flood risk including FEMA flood zone, then take steps to reduce their vulnerability to flooding damage.

Climate change is increasing inland and coastal flooding risk due to sea level rise and increasing chances of extreme precipitation. See more information on flooding risk.

Precipitation risk in Houston, TX

The share of precipitation during the biggest downpours in Houston is projected to increase.

A downpour for Houston, TX is a two-day rainfall total over 1.1 inches. Around 1990, about 44.0% of precipitation fell during these downpours. In 2050, this is projected to be about 48.0%. The annual precipitation in Houston, TX is projected to decrease from about 45.9" to about 45.0".

Extreme precipitation in any form can pose significant risks. Climate change is increasing the potential for extreme rainfall or snowfall because warmer air can hold more water vapor. See more information on storm risk. Property owners can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme precipitation.

Drought risk in Houston, TX

The average water stress in Houston is projected to be higher around 2050 than around 2015.

The Buffalo-San Jacinto watershed, which contains Houston, TX, has experienced 537 weeks (45% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in drought of any level, and 80 weeks (7% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in Extreme or Exceptional drought. Source: National Drought Monitor.

Climate change is increasing the risk of drought. Water stress (the ratio of water demand to supply) depends on how water utilities source water and their plans to adapt to climate change. Property owners can also take steps to reduce their risks from drought.

Fire risk in Houston, TX

The risk on the most dangerous fire weather days in Houston is moderate. The number of these days per year is expected to increase through 2050.

Of 1675 census tracts in Houston, TX, there are 1007 where more than a quarter of buildings have significant fire risk, and 773 where more than half of buildings have significant fire risk. Property owners can take steps to mitigate their risks from wildfires.

Fire risk depends on proximity to vegation: densely developed urban areas have a much lower risk of burning than areas adjacent to wildland. Climate change increases risks from wildfire by creating hotter, drier conditions for fires to spread. ClimateCheck ratings of fire risk are based on projected weather conditions and U.S. Forest Service models simulating fire behavior.

How can we limit climate change and live in a transforming world?

The projections on this page describe a future that we still have a chance to avoid. To keep average global warming below 1.5ºC—the goal agreed on in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords—we need to act rapidly to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Understand Risks

The risks presented on this page reflect modeled averages for Houston, TX under one projected emissions scenario and can vary for individual properties. To find out more, check a specific address and request a report describing risks to your property and in your area.

Reduce Emissions

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states: “If global emissions continue at current rates, the remaining carbon budget for keeping warming to 1.5ºC will likely be exhausted before 2030.” This remaining carbon budget is about the same amount as total global emissions 2010-2019.

In the United States, the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation (about 30%). Globally the vast majority of transportation-related emissions come from cars and trucks, followed by shipping and air travel, which is growing quickly.

Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. uses twice the average share of emissions for its buildings (including heating and cooling).

Estimate your emissions with the CoolClimate calculator.

Reducing emissions is necessary and possible across the globe and in every part of our society. Learn more with the Not Too Late project and the Project Drawdown introduction to climate solutions.

Protect Homes and Communities

Check our free report for tips on protecting your home from hazards.

Green infrastructure is a category of nature-based solutions for managing increasing precipitation. Find resources for individuals and municipalities through the EPA Soak Up the Rain initiative.

Planting trees and vegetation helps reduce extreme heat in urban environments. Cool pavements can also help. Search the Heat Island Community Actions Database to see what some municipalities have been doing to reduce extreme heat risk.

Read more about building resilience for communities: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Use the Common Cause tool to find your representatives, how to contact them, and information about political contributions and bills they have introduced.