How Much More of This Heat Do We Have to Take?

July 27, 2011; 12:01 AM ET
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Shon Oliver takes a seat in an open fire hydrant to get some relief from the oppressive afternoon heat in New York, Friday, July 22, 2011. Central Park hit 104 degrees as most New Yorkers stayed inside rather than take their chances with the stifling heat and humidity. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

"The southern Plains is going to continue to bake through at least the middle of August"

Last week, a brutal heat wave gripped the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., setting records in cities from the Plains and Midwest to the East and killing more than 20 people.

This week, searing heat is still scorching and setting records across the southern Plains, and intense heat will make a return to the East by the end of the week.

This brings up two questions: How unusual have these heat waves been? How much more of this will we have to take this summer?

Outlook for the Rest of Summer

July has featured non-stop sizzling heat across the southern Plains. Periodically, this hot air has surged all the way into areas from the northern Plains to the Midwest and East Coast.

Last week's heat wave was the worst of the month for the Midwest and East with extreme humidity levels sending RealFeel® temperatures soaring higher than 120° in many cities. Numerous records were broken in the East Friday, including some all-time high temperature records.

"This may wind up being the hottest period from the Midwest to the East Coast for the rest of the summer season," said Long Range Forecaster Jack Boston.

That should be good news for residents of the Midwest and East. However, that doesn't mean these regions will not experience uncomfortably hot weather again this summer. In fact, more oppressive heat is on the way to the East by the end of the week.

During August, a change in the overall weather pattern is expected to keep extreme heat generally bottled up over the central and southern Plains, stretching from Austin and Dallas, Texas; to Oklahoma City, Okla.; Wichita, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; and St. Louis, Mo.

Occasionally, that heat can expand northward into the Dakotas and Minnesota as well, according to Boston.

"The southern Plains is going to continue to bake through at least the middle of August," Boston stated. "The 100-degree heat is just going to keep on coming."

Boston added that while there will probably be times it gets pretty hot in the mid-Atlantic and warm in the Northeast, it should not be as extreme as July.

"The Northeast will have more opportunities to get air masses coming in from Canada with lower humidity in August," he explained. "Nights will be cooler with those as well." The same can be said for the Northeast.

The cool spot of the country will remain the Pacific Northwest.

"It's very unusual for the Northwest to not have any extended periods of hot weather during the summer," Boston said. "That area of the country is going to stay cooler than normal with more episodes of rain in August."

How Unusual Have this Summer's Heat Waves Been?

Heat waves occur just about every summer, so the fact that there have been several heat waves in the Midwest and East this month is not unusual.

"The heat in the East has lasted three or four days and then it's gone," Boston said.

However, the areal extent of last week's heat wave and its humidity levels were out of the ordinary.

Minneapolis, Minn., set an all-time record dew point temperature of 82°. "Humidity is usually considered oppressive once dew points get into the 70s," explained meteorologist Andy Mussoline. "A dew point of 82° is just unbearable."

Actual temperatures did rise unusually high in some areas of the Northeast on Friday. Newark, N.J., set an all-time record with the high reaching 108°.

"Those temperatures Friday were unusual," Boston commented. "The reason it was able to get that hot is because the Northeast has been just so dry."

For the southern Plains, the extreme heat this summer has been more unusual, being a "once in a decade" type of occurrence that it stays so hot for so long.


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