Epic Heat Waves Are Not As Uncommon As You May Think July 10, 2012 By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill
While the brutally hot weather that engulfed the Central and Eastern U.S. for almost two weeks in late June and early July set countless records, it wasn`t the only epic heat wave since weather records started that made it into the history books. NOAA reports more than 3,000 temperature records were smashed between June 29 and July 5, 2012 in a heat wave that spanned the U.S. from Colorado to Virginia. In addition, more than 30 deaths have been attributed to the heat wave. A few of the biggest records include Washington, D.C., coming one degree shy of its all-time record high of 106 degrees toward the end of the heat wave. Denver tied its all-time high temperature record of 105 degrees when the heat wave was just coming off the Front Range early in the last week of June. A high of 106 degrees on June 30, marked the hottest day ever in Atlanta while Knoxville, Tenn., reached 105 degrees on the same day, also setting a new all-time record high. This wasn`t the only major heat wave to grip large stretches of the Central and Eastern U.S. in history. The end to the "Dust Bowl" era in July 1936 brought on one of the hottest summers to the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. Nearly 5,000 people died in the intense heat. Many all-time record highs fell by the wayside with this heat wave, too. Decorah, Iowa, hit 111 degrees and La Crosse, Wis., reached 108 degrees. A plethora of state record highs remain on the books from the 1936 heat wave as well. Alton, Kan., hit 121 degrees, Collegeville, Ind., reached 116 degrees, Cumberland and Frederick, Md., reached 109 degrees, while Wisconsin Dells, Wis., hit 114 degrees. In more recent history, more than 1,250 people died in the 1980 central and eastern heat wave that lasted the entire summer. All but two days had temperatures above 90 degrees in Kansas City, Mo., from June through September. Dallas had 42 consecutive days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees while Oklahoma City tied for its second hottest summer on record with an average temperature of 85.9 degrees. A two-week heat wave at the end of July in 2005 was blamed for nearly 60 deaths across the U.S. The state of New York set a record of more than 32,000 megawatts of electric usage. Meanwhile, more than 1,200 cattle in Nebraska died from the heat. In the Twin Cities, nine consecutive days with temperatures at or above 90 degrees in mid-July 2005 tied for third place, falling short of the all-time record of 14 days during the July 1936 heat wave. The cause for heat waves can be attributed to a strong high pressure ridge that often develops in the central and eastern U.S. in early summer. Sunshine each day combined with a southwest wind around the high allows temperatures to skyrocket. The only thing that breaks heat waves is when this high shifts location, gets broken down by a strong cold front or in the case of the 1980 heat wave, a dissipating hurricane shifts the weather pattern. Be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter. --- Story Image: Blazing sunshine beams down on Parks Rapid, Minn., in early July. (Mike Palodichuk, WeatherBug user) What do you think of this story? Click here for comments or suggestions.