A rare look at the official weather observation stations located at Houston’s airports

The National Weather Service monitors wind, rain, heat and humidity from multiple observation stations positioned throughout the airfields at Bush and Hobby airports.

August 29, 2023

Houston’s record-setting heat is one of the biggest stories of the summer. Meteorologists across the country are sourcing triple-digit temperatures measured by the National Weather Service at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport.

The official observation site for the city of Houston was moved quite a few times during its long history, according to the NWS. The NWS City Office was located in Downtown Houston and observations began in July 1881. Regrettably, weather records prior to 1889 are not available. However, the NWS confirms that a relatively complete set of daily temperature and rainfall data is available dating back to 1892 with some temperature and rainfall records dating back to 1889.

Hobby Airport is Houston's oldest commercial airport and is located on the southeast side of the city. Hobby Airport was developed in 1927 and was known as W.T. Carter Field. The City of Houston acquired the site in 1937 and renamed the airport Houston Municipal Airport. In 1967, the airport was renamed William P. Hobby Airport to honor the former Texas governor. 

Weather observations were established at Hobby Airport in August 1930. Weather observations continue to be taken today and a continuous set of weather records are available from 1931 to now.

The NWS City Office remained in downtown Houston from 1881 through May 1969. George Bush Intercontinental Airport opened in June 1969 and the official observation site was moved to the airport upon its opening. The official observation site for Houston has been located at Bush Airport ever since.

Both airports feature multiple observation stations within the airfield, with most a short distance from the runway.

Weather instruments include visibility sensors; ice detectors; ceilometers, which determine the height of a cloud ceiling or cloud base; precipitation sensors; anemometers, which measure wind speed; hygro-thermometers, which measure both the temperature and the humidity level; and precipitation sensor rain buckets. 

At Hobby Airport, the data collected through NWS observation stations is directly fed to the Air Traffic Control Tower, which then sends the information to the NWS office at Hobby Airport. 

The National Weather Service provides weather, water, climate data, forecasts, warnings and impact-based decision support services for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy. The NWS has played a key role in protecting American lives and properties for more than a century. 

Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) provide accurate and dependable weather information to the Federal Aviation Administration, contributing to the safest and most efficient use of our nation’s National Airspace System. CWSU are located at Ellington Airport, Hobby Airport and Bush Airport and six municipal airports in the communities that surround Houston.