A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

Record Summer Temperatures, By The Numbers

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The weather this summer has been so extreme that it has rivaled the most destructive and unbearable summers in U.S. history, years that are infamous in weather lore. Those years include 1934 and 1936, which were in the middle of the Dust Bowl era, as well as 1954 and 1988, which was the year that Yellowstone National Park burned and NASA scientist James Hansen first warned the U.S. Senate about the consequences of manmade global warming.

Each dot on this map represents a temperature record set during June of 2012. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: Climate Central.

As a reporter and analyst on the extreme weather and climate change beat, I’ve found this summer to be dizzying, with too many extreme events and broken records to count, let alone write about. First it was the heat, then the wildfires, and now the ever-expanding drought that seems intent on swallowing the entire country and kicking off a global food crisis. Oh, and there has been more extreme heat. On Friday, in fact, several states in the High Plains were under heat watches and warnings, but they’re used to that by now. After all, this is the summer of sweat. It’s also a summer that offers a vivid and disturbing preview of what’s to come as a result of manmade global warming.

I’ve compiled some of the most impressive temperature records that I gathered from the National Weather Service’s labyrinthine network of websites, and will be updating this weekly as the summer continues. I plan to add noteworthy precipitation records to the Extreme Planet blog as well.

National:

The U.S. recorded its warmest January-to-June period on record and its warmest 12-month period.

The warm June followed the warmest spring on record, which was the culmination of the warmest Marchthird-warmest April, and second-warmest May. This marks the first time that all three months during the spring season ranked among the 10 warmest, since records began in 1895.

In June, said NOAA scientists, the average daily temperature for the lower 48 states was a full 2.0°F above the 20th-century average. 

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical storms/hurricanes, was a record-large 44 percent during the January-to-June period. That was more than twice the average value, driven largely by warm daily high and warm overnight low temperatures.

During June, there were at least 3,282 daily record high temperatures broken or tied, and at least 1,955 records for warmest overnight low temperature. Of these records, 645 were monthly records, and 173 were all-time temperature records.

Sidney Municipal Airport in Nebraska did its part to add to the daily record total by breaking or tying an impressive 20 daily temperature records during June, out of a possible 63 such records during the month.

Through July 18, there have been 3,369 record daily highs broken or tied, and 2,456 record warm overnight low temperature records set or tied. Of these, 349 have been monthly records, and 197 have been all-time records.

In a long-term trend that demonstrates the effects of a warming climate, daily record-high temperatures have recently been outpacing daily record lows by an average of 2-to-1, and this imbalance is expected to grow as the climate continues to warm. According to a 2009 study, if the climate were not warming, this ratio would be expected to be even. However, you'll notice that shorter time periods will have much more lopsided ratios, including this year when daily record highs are outnumbering daily record lows 9-to-1. Or, when you look at all warm temperature records, including overnight low temperatures compared to all cold temperature records, the ratio is closer to 7-to-1.

State-by-State:

On a state-by-state basis, Colorado set the highest number of daily high temperature records during June, with 343, followed by Texas (337) and Kansas (230). Tennessee set the most all-time records in June, with 27, followed by Colorado (23) and Kansas (21). In Colorado, June 2012 was the warmest June on record, with temperatures averaging 6.4°F above average. Seven other Western states had a top 10 warm June.

A scientific panel known as the U.S. State Climate Extremes Committee is reviewing a temperature reading of 113°F in South Carolina, and 112°F in Georgia, to determine if they qualify as the warmest temperature ever recorded in those states.

Curious about some of the noteworthy records set in U.S. cities? Here’s a brief city-by-city rundown. (You can also explore these records and more using Climate Central's Record Temperature Tracker.) More to come I'm sure...

Local Records:

Temperature Location Old Record Date Set
118°F NORTON DAM, KS 113°F (3 days prior) June 28
115°F MCCOOK, NE 114°F (July 20, 1932) June 26
112°F GARDEN CITY EXP STN, KS 109°F (1 day prior) June 28
109°F ATHENS, GA 108°F (7/12/1930) June 29
107°F CHATTANOOGA AP, TN 106°F (1 day prior) June 30
106°F HUNTSVILLE INTL AP, AL 105°F (Aug 16, 2007) June 29
106°F ATLANTA HARTSFIELD AP, GA 105°F (Jul 17, 1980) June 30
106°F ST LOUIS SCI CTR, MO 105°F (Jul 30, 1999) June 30

St. Louis

The heat and drought have been especially intense in the Plains and the Midwest. Through July 20, St. Louis has had 24 straight days at 90°F or higher, which is that city’s second-longest such streak on record. The recordholder is 1936, when it had a streak of 28 straight days. St. Louis set its all-time June monthly high temperature record on June 28, with a temperature of 108°F. That was the hottest temperature observed since July of 1954. The all-time high temperature record in St. Louis stands at 115°F, set in . . . you guessed it, 1954.

On three straight days during June the temperature soared to at or above 105°F in St. Louis, tying or exceeding the previous all-time June high temperature record three times. Prior to this year, St. Louis had never had multiple days of 105-degree or higher temperatures in the month of June. 

St. Louis had its second-longest streak of triple-digit heat on record during the period from June 28 to July 7.

State-by-state breakdown of all-time record temperatures set during June 2012. Click on image for a larger version. Credit: NOAA/NWS.

Chicago

The summer is on pace to break the record for the most 90-degree days in a year, with 32 such days so far. The number to beat is 47 days, set in 1988. According to the NWS, “Chicago didn't see its 32nd 90-degree high temperature until July 31st, meaning 2012 is running nearly two weeks ahead of 1988!”

Washington, D.C.

It has been an extremely hot and stormy summer so far in the nation’s capital, with seven 100-plus degree days, tying 1988 for No. 2 on the all-time list. The record-holder is the summer of 1930, which had 11 such days. Washington also recorded its hottest June day in history when the temperature hit 104°F on June 29.

With a high of 102°F on July 8, Washington tied its record for the longest streak of 100-degree days, matching a record set during July of 1930. Washington also set a record with 11 straight days of 95-degree heat from June 28 to July 8.

Raleigh, N.C.

Raleigh tied its all-time record high with a temperature of 105°F on July 8, and broke its record for the longest streak of consecutive 100-degree days. The temperature reached or exceeded the triple digits on six straight days from July 3-8.

Ft. Wayne, Ind.

According to the NWS, “High temperatures reached or exceeded 90°F on at least 22 consecutive days (June 27 - July 18) in Ft. Wayne, shattering the mark originally set from July 11-24, 1983.”

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Colorado Springs, which was damaged by the deadly Waldo Canyon Wildfire during June, had its warmest June on record with an average temperature of 73.2°F, which handily beat the old record of 70.8°F. Colorado Springs set an all-time high temperature record of 101°F on June 26, breaking the record of 100°F. According to the NWS, Colorado Springs recorded three straight days of triple-digit heat. Previously, Colorado Springs had only hit the century mark on four other occasions since records began in 1894.

Links to More Record Temperature Information

Climate Central's June-July Heat Wave Coverage

National Weather Service Mid-July Briefing on Heat and Drought (pdf)

National Climatic Data Center's Temperature Extremes Page

June State of the Climate Report: Supplemental Data

« Extreme Planet

Comments

By Eve (Jerusalem)
on July 21st, 2012

Here in Jerusalem, thousands of miles from the US, we just had a 7- day stretch of high temperatures - the longest such heat wave in 50 years.  We will see what the summer holds.  My memories of my most recent visit to the States in March include walking
around in a t-shirt and light pants in Chicago and enjoying the flowering trees on the streets of New York as they burst into early bloom.

Reply to this comment

By Steve Goddard (Fort Collins/Colorado/80525)
on July 21st, 2012

The summer of 2012 won’t come close to the average maximum or average mean temperatures of the summers of 1901, 1933, 1934, or 1936.

Here are the temperatures for Nebraska on July 24, 1936

  ALBION       115
  ALLIANCE 1WNW   101
  ASHLAND NO 2   111
  ATKINSON 3SW   110
  AUBURN 5 ESE   107
  BEAVER CITY   116
  BRIDGEPORT     102
  BROKEN BOW 2 W 111
  CRETE       111
  CURTIS 3NNE   110
  DAVID CITY     111
  FAIRBURY 5S   111
  FAIRMONT     111
  FRANKLIN     116
  GENEVA       113
  GENOA 2 W     116
  GOTHENBURG     110
  HARRISON     99
  HARTINGTON     111
  HASTINGS 4N   116
  HEBRON       110
  HOLDREGE     113
  IMPERIAL     111
  KIMBALL 2NE   101
  LODGEPOLE     105
  LOUP CITY     111
  MADISON       117
  MC COOK       111
  MERRIMAN     103
  MINDEN       118
  NORTH LOUP     103
  OAKDALE       115
  PAWNEE CITY   111
  PURDUM       112
  RED CLOUD     115
  SAINT PAUL 4N   115
  SEWARD       111
  SYRACUSE     110
  TECUMSEH 1S   107
  TEKAMAH       105
  WAKEFIELD     108
  WEEPING WATER   108
  YORK         112

Reply to this comment

By Martin Pierard (VIC 3364 Australia)
on July 22nd, 2012

I enjoy your posts but wonder why you don’t include data from the rest of North America. To look at your maps one would think that the drought/heatwave stops at the borders rather than scourging both Mexico and Canada.
You can never emphasise too much that AGW is a global phenomenon.
Keep up the good work!

Reply to this comment

By Rick (MO)
on July 25th, 2012

I am totally a believer in human impact on global warming.  But isn’t this year more of a freak climate event?  This year certainly doesn’t follow the trends of the past 3-5 years for average temperature.  I just don’t want to confuse the issues as false evidence does nothing but hurt the cause of those trying to make the case for human impact on global warming. 

Aren’t Europe and Asia experiencing some of the coolest wetest weather on record as well.  Otherwise as a sweating St. Louisan, I appreciate the compliing of data, very informative.  I would just appreciate properly classifying the event so as not to be missleading.

Reply to this comment

By Andrew
on July 25th, 2012

@RIck - I wouldn’t say this year is a “freak climate event.” This year has been relatively cool globally, but still much above the 20th century average, and the relative coolness has been largely due to a la nina event that has only recently dissipated.

While it’s true that the UK has had a cool and wet start to the summer, this map of surface temp anomalies worldwide show that this area is in the minority, not the majority.

In the U.S., the heat has rivaled that of the hottest years in U.S. history.

Surface temp anomalies during past 30 days:
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/rnl/sfctmpmer_30a.rnl.gif

Surface temp anomalies during June 2012:
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-blended-mntp/201206.gif

Reply to this comment

By Justin
on November 4th, 2012

As mentioned by Rick, regarding locations internationally, this makes the case for people to migrate to other regions that are not affected as much from global warming and man’s huge usage of fossil fuels.  Where is there a climate (or micro-climate) that is comfortable any longer. Records were also broke on the west coast (near the coasts) as well as the Northeast. 
There’s not much to choose from unless you give Canada a shot or move abroad ( http://www.exploringabroad.com ) to a region that is not heavily populated? Maybe the immediate population has something to do with it as well. I am thinking in the south pacific.

Reply to this comment

By bruce murray (NSW 2320)
on April 4th, 2013

SEARING HEAT CONTINUES
DEATH ROLL MOUNTING New York, July 9.
The number of deaths directly attributed   to the searing heat rose to 213   to-day in the middle west. The damage   in the western prairie areas is   estimated at £40,000,000. Forest fires   have broken out in Wyoming. The whole of the eastern section of the   United States is sweltering. There   was a temperature of 113 degrees in Madison Square, while in the man-made   canyons of the financial district the building outlines were blurred by heat waves.

No not 2012 - 9 July 1936 Canada and USA experienced terrible drought 1934 - 1937

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