July Was Hot But Nothing Unusual
By Heidi Sonen & Roscoe Shaw
July was hot. Very hot. But, after all, it is July in the South, so what do you expect? We have been spoiled by a recent series of fairly cool summers. In the last three summers, only one day got to 95 degrees. That happened on June 18, 2014.
The last really hot summer was in 2012. I’m sure you remember the blistering heat of the “derecho” week.
Temperatures reached 100 the day of the destructive derecho on June 29, 2012 and stayed near 100 for a week after. The hottest was 104 on July 8. Most of Crozet was without power for up to a week but our street was lucky and had power back after 12 hours. Our house turned into a refugee camp where people came to charge their phones and sit in the air conditioning.
In July this year, 22 days reached at least 90 and the average temperature, day and night, was 79.5. That was hot enough for an impressive 13th place in the record books for July in 113 years of reliable data.
Late July is, on average, the hottest time of the year even though the sun is strongest on the summer solstice about June 21st. This one month lag is because we are still gaining more heat with the strong sun than we are losing. By early August, the weakening sun begins to lose the battle and the average temperature begins to drop, bottoming in late January.
The hottest July ever was in 1930. The average temperature was 81.4 degrees and 35 days reached 95 degrees or more that year. They didn’t call the 1930s the “Dust Bowl Years’ for nothing. The summer heat waves of the 1930s in the United States still hold most of the heat wave index records.
The year with the most scorching days over 95 degrees was 1914 with 37. Other hot years were 1930, 1999, and 1953. The average number of days reaching 95 degrees is nine and this year we have seven so far.
So July was hot, but by historical standards, nothing very unusual. If you can’t stand the heat, head to the Rocky Mountains. Heidi and I went there on vacation last month and woke up to four inches of snow on July 11th. Or try Miami Beach. The average high there is just 88 in July due to the afternoon ocean breezes. Definitely do not go to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. On July 8, 2003, the temperature hit 108 with a dewpoint of 95, making the heat index 172 degrees.