Just ask the people of Dallas this week and they will be convinced they have the worst weather airport. This is the season where a white Christmas means delays in getting home for the holidays, overnights on the floor of airports and long waits at the end of runways.
The Weather Channel has picked the ten worst weather airports in America. Here are the top five and you can see the rest by clicking here.
1. San Francisco
The answer: low clouds and fog.
In the warmer months, moist air from the cool Pacific Ocean is drawn into the Bay Area in the afternoon due to the pressure difference between the hot Central Valley and chilly coast. This moist air then condenses into low clouds overnight which hang in place until sunshine warms the layer enough to dissipate the clouds.
In the winter months, the fog can be more dense, if not as frequent, as cold air drains westward from the Central Valley and locks in.
"You can almost guarantee delays at SFO if there is a low cloud deck," says Meteorologist Jen Carfagno. "I see it almost every Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. PST when there are low clouds."
Why is this such a problem at San Francisco? Blame runway spacing.
SFO International Airport has two sets of parallel runways. The separation between each runway is only 750 feet. This is fine in the absence of low clouds, fog, or wind. Pilots can land using visual flight rules.
2. Newark Liberty Airport
Newark ranked dead last in on-time arrivals among the 29 major U.S. airports in both 2011 and 2012. Put simply, you had a 3 in 10 chance of experiencing an arrival delay at Newark in 2012. If your flight was delayed, there was a better than 50/50 chance it was due to weather.
Surprisingly, it's the wind that can trigger delays most often, here.
Two of Newark's three runways are oriented southwest to northeast. Since west to northwest crosswinds are common, this is a frequent problem, even on a sunny day.
"Strong winds mean planes need more space between them in takeoff and landing," says Meteorologist Jen Carfagno. "Strong winds blowing across a runway can make it unusable."
"Because of the congested airspace, small number of runways, and high volume, wind seems to have the biggest impact at both Newark and LaGuardia," said Carfagno. "If someone sneezes too hard at Newark, it seems to create delays."
3. Chicago 0'Hare
Chicago O'Hare suffers from high volume (over 66 million passengers in 2012, bested only by Atlanta, Beijing, London and Tokyo) and a potpourri of weather that can lead to significant delays any time of year. Snow, ice, thunderstorms, wind, fog. You name it, they have to deal with it.
First, a basic tenet of meteorology needs to be overcome. Weather systems in the Midwest generally move from west to east. At O'Hare, arrivals typically approach from the east. This makes flying around any adverse weather system a challenge.
The most crippling delays at O'Hare are due to snow. The Windy City"has more days with measurable snow each year, 27-28 days on average, than any Northeast hub.
Chicago also sees more thunderstorm days (38) each year, on average, than any Northeast hub. On May 29, 2011, a cluster of slow-moving thunderstorms rumbled across northern Illinois, resulting not only in arrival and departure delays, but also lengthy tarmac delays of three hours for roughly 600 unlucky passengers.
4. New York's LaGuardia
While making up only 22 percent of the total passenger load of the three major New York City metro airports, LaGuardia Airport is still prone to its share of delays.
Snowstorms are the most frequent instigators of massive flight delays and cancelations at the metro's big three airports, but aren't the only weather nuisance.
Situated on Flushing Bay, storm surge from Superstorm Sandy flooded LaGuardia's runways on Oct. 29, 2012, pushing as far as the terminal buildings and jetways.
5. Houston Bush
This one may have caught you by surprise. After all, snow and ice are extremely rare near the Texas coast.
In Houston, delays are due to two main weather factors.
First, thunderstorms frequent the metro area roughly 62 days during an average year, and can do so any month of the year, even while the rest of the nation is shivering in mid-winter.
While these thunderstorms can often be severe, the key for airport delays is, often times, Houston's thunderstorms are slow movers. Instead of a 30-60 minute delay for thunderstorms, as may be the case in more northern airport hubs, delays in Houston could last over an hour if, say, a cluster of thunderstorms takes its time.
Then, there's fog and low clouds.