Highlights of the Great Eastern Heat Wave

By By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist
July 09, 2010, 9:23:07 AM EDT

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While triple-digit heat in the Northeast is now a thing of the past and will soon break off in the Deep South, the great heat wave of early July 2010 will not be soon forgotten.

At least four locations had 100-degree heat for a four-day stretch: Newark, N.J.; Frederick, Md.; Selinsgrove, Pa.; and Shenandoah Valley, Va.

In Newark, N.J., spanning July 4 through July 7, the period tied the all-time streak for 100-degree temperatures set in 1993 and also in 1953, according to the National Weather Service.

Multiple cities had three days in a row of 100-degree heat including: Baltimore, Md.; Trenton, N.J.; Richmond, Va.; and Reading, Pa.


The temperature reached 100 degrees at Millersville University, Pa., on July 6 and 7, 2010. Photo from DJ, AccuWeather.com Facebook fan.

At the height of the heat wave on Wednesday, temperatures cracked the century mark from Connecticut to South Carolina.

In the northern states, a heat wave is loosely defined a three-day or longer stretch of 90-degree temperatures or higher.

In the South, day after day of near-90 degree temperatures in the summer are more common and handled with respect, yet with few complaints. However, a stretch of highs in the mid- to upper 90s are generally not liked and raise dangers as well.

In New York's Central Park, the temperature reached 100 degrees two days, July 6 and 7. Both days established new daily record highs of 103 and 100 respectively. The eclipsed record high of 98 degrees on the 7th was set in 1933, during the Dust Bowl Era.

Some record highs that fell in the East during this heat wave were on the books since the 1800s. On July 7, at Wilmington, Del., the old record of 98 degrees set in 1897 was blown away with a high of 103 degrees.


Some people commented that this heat wave didn't feel so bad, despite the extreme temperature. In many cases, this was probably true as we did not have high humidity when the highest temperatures occurred.

The temperature at Bradley International Airport, Conn., tied the highest temperature ever recorded for the site on July 6. The 102-degree reading matched marks set on July 3, 1966, and tied on August 9, 2001.

Even in Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., daily record highs were broken this week.

While the heat wave will not go down in the books as the longest ever on record for the East, it will rank high on the list of intensity (100-degree, or nearly 100-degree) for consecutive days for so many locations. Not only has it done so for hot weather stretches earlier this decade and in the 1990s, but also some nasty spells of swelter in the 1970s, 1950s and 1930s.

Will it be the last heat wave of the summer of 2010 for the East? Probably not.

Short-term droughts tend to come and go during the summer. Dry ground breeds heat in that the sun's energy doesn't get siphoned off by evaporating moisture.


We are bound to hook up another dry spell with a big high pressure system like we had recently. The dry air and dry ground both contributed to the persistent extreme temperatures.

Perhaps we will not again see the extreme level of heat like we recently experienced this year, but we are likely get a long spell of 90-degree highs for more heat waves.

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