Heat Wave Smashing All-Time Records

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
July 04, 2012; 4:40 PM
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High temperature records have been falling by the wayside so far this year, and the current heat wave now as added all-time record highs to its impressive list.

Never mind highs near 100 degrees. The current heat wave has temperatures pushing 102, 105 even 108 degrees in portions of the Plains, Midwest, South and East.


Notable Records from Monday

While no all-time records were reached to start the new work week, there were some other impressive records set.

--Evansville, Ind., in reaching 103, set a new daily record high for the fifth consecutive day (the old record from Monday was 101 set back in 1933). The new record highs through that stretch have ranged from 103 to 107.

--Rolla, Mo., not only broke the previous record high temperature of 101 from 1901 by reaching 102, thunderstorms also dropped 3.45 inches of rain. This total smashed the old record of 1.70 inches from 1980.

--The temperature at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., only fell to 79 early Monday morning, smashing the previous daily record high minimum of 73 from way back in 1872.


All-Time Record Highs Tied Sunday

--Chattanooga, TN tied the all-time record of 107, set just one day prior on Saturday. This high temperature also smashed the daily record of 101, originally set in 1953 and 1954.

--Knoxville, TN tied the all-time record of 105, set the day prior on Saturday. This high temperature also smashed the daily record of 100 from 1954.

--Charlotte, NC reached 104 and tied the all-time record for the third straight day.


All-Time Record Highs Set Saturday

--Columbus, GA set an all time record of 106, breaking the previous all-time record of 105 which was set on Friday. The daily record high was 100 set in 1959.

--Macon, GA tied the all-time record high of 108, which was last set in 1980. The record high for the day was 103 set in 1959.

--Knoxville, TN set an all-time record high of 105, breaking the previous all-time record high of 104 set on July 12th, 1930. The previous record high for the day was 100, set in 1952.

--Tri-cities, TN set an all-time record high of 103 degrees, breaking the previous all-time record of 102 set on June 29, 2012 and July 29, 1952. The previous daily record high was only 95, set in 1959.

--Chattanooga, TN set an all-time record high of 107 degrees, breaking the previous all-time record of 106 set on June 29, 2012 and July 28, 1952. The previous daily record was 103 degrees set in 1952.

--Charlotte, NC tied an all-time record high of 104 degrees, last set on August 10, 2007. The record high for the day was 102 set in 1959.

--Atlanta, GA set an all-time record of 106 degrees, breaking the previous all-time record of 105 set in 1980. The previous daily record was 98 degrees set in 1936, broken by a whopping 8 degrees!

--Columbia, SC tied the all-time record high of 109 which was set on Friday. The record for the day was 103, set in 1959.

--Raleigh, NC tied the all-time record high temperature of 105 which was last set on Friday and set before that on July 23, 1952. The record for the day was 102 set in 1959.


Meteorologist DJ Hoffman pointed out that as of Sunday, July 1, 2012, more than 22,000 record highs have been broken to date this year.

"We have had over 9,000 more record highs this year, compared to last year, despite 2011's South Central states heat and drought," Hoffman said.

Just as lack of snow was contributing to drought over the central Rockies to the Midwest, above normal temperatures from way back in the winter were contributing to the heat so far this summer.

Multiple days of record highs were set from the central Plains and Rockies to the Great Lakes during March. Chicago had nine days in a row of record highs spanning March 14 to 22.

Indianapolis came within 3 degrees of tying their all-time record high of 107 degrees during Thursday with a high of 104 degrees.

Meanwhile, Thursday, about 130 miles away in the Hoosier State, in Fort Wayne, the temperature tied its all-time record high set during the dust bowl era in 1936 and 1934, as well as during the blistering summer of 1988.


A "sea of heat" covered much of the Central states and the South Thursday on this National Weather Service map. The 100-degree heat spread toward the East Coast over the weekend.

100 degrees seems to be the new 90 degrees for this summer in a large part of the nation.

According to Climatologist Jim Rourke, "Other vicious extreme high temperatures Thursday included Russell, Kan., with 110 degrees; St. Louis, Mo., with 108 degrees; Little Rock, Ark., with 107 degrees; Kansas City, Mo., with 106 degrees; Nashville, Tenn., with 105 degrees and Dayton, Ohio, with 102 degrees."

Earlier last week, all-time records were reached in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

"All of these locations and many others not only broke or tied daily record highs for the date, but also set June all-time record highs during the current heat wave," Rourke said.

During the following several days, temperatures were forecast to reach 100 degrees or higher from the central Plains to the interior South.

Did they ever.

Columbia, S.C. has broke its all-time record high of 107 degrees set on multiple dates. During Friday "and" Saturday afternoon, temperatures reached 109 degrees.

During Friday afternoon, Nashville broke its all-time record high of 107 degrees set in 1952 by reaching 109 degrees.

Atlanta exceeded its all-time record high of 105 degrees set on July 17, 1980, on Saturday when the mercury reached 106 degrees.

Charlotte, N.C., tied its all-time record high of 104 degrees three times from Friday to Sunday. The record was originally set in 1954 and was then tied in 2007.

Washington, D.C., broke its June record of 102 set in 2011, when the temperature reached 104 degrees Friday afternoon. The all-time record high is 106 degrees set on July 20, 1930.

Temperatures Friday afternoon inched close to the all-time record of 108 degrees at Baltimore's Inner Harbor with a high of 106 degrees.

According to Long Range Expert Paul Pastelok, "Given the persistence of the large high pressure area producing the heat and dry conditions thus far, this will not be the last of widespread triple-digit readings this summer."

"While the heat will tend to be intermittent from the northern Plains to the Northeast, indications are that more of this sort of thing can continue from the southern and central Plains to the interior South in the coming weeks," Pastelok said.

When a temperature has reached or surpassed the highest temperature on "record" for a particular location, it is considered to be an "all-time record high.

In many cases, temperature records have been kept for 120 years or more in major cities, while some temperature records in smaller cities and towns may only be in the books for a few decades.

Current, official temperature readings are taken at height of about 6 feet off the ground with no direct exposure to the sun or reflection from the sun or warm surfaces.

Many temperature and weather observation sites are located at airfields.

Before the arrival of airfields during the early 1900s, most observations were taken in inner cities, and while they were accurate to where they were located, they would give higher readings than say in a countryside or suburban location, where most airfields exist, due to the heat island effect.

The heat wave is also playing interesting tricks with nighttime temperatures.

Near the outer edge of the heat wave, where a breeze stays up at night and the humidity is elevated, temperatures barely dipped below average daytime highs for the date.

In Des Moines, Iowa, the low temperature on Thursday was a mere 81 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, it was only the second time in 75 years in which the low temperature was 81 degrees or higher. The last time this occurred was on July 12, 1966.

Meanwhile, in the middle of building drought areas of Arkansas, near the center of the high pressure area and a pocket of dry air, the atmosphere is behaving like a desert. At North Little Rock Airport, the temperature began Thursday at 63 degrees, then reached 107 degrees the same afternoon.

This story was originally published on Friday, June 29, 2012 and has been updated.

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