Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot Summer of 2011 Rewrites Record Books

Dallas Texas set another weather record today, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), with an unprecedented number of 100-degree-or-above days. The temperature hit at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit 70 times this year, a new record for most 100 F days in a year for the city. The city tied its 1980 record of 69 days at 100°F yesterday.

Dallas-Fort Worth became the 15th metropolitan area among 19 around Texas to break a record for triple-digit days this year with several Texas cities nearly doubling their records. The high temperature at Dallas today was 107°, smashing the old daily record by 7°.

Also breaking a record by a wide margin was Houston, where the 102° high crushed the 99-year-old record of 98° from 1912. This year has now had both the earliest (June 5) and latest 102° temperatures in a calendar year at Houston. This is the 45th day of 100° temperatures at Houston, breaking the old record of 32 by almost 2 weeks. The Austin high of 105° broke another long-standing record, exceeding the 100° in 1918. It was the 7th 100° day at Austin this month and the 84th this year, extending the record more than 2 weeks beyond the old record of 69. The record was broken on August 24.

This year, four states — Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana — each had their warmest-ever June through August periods, according to weather data compiled by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

In August, more than 4,000 record warm temperatures were set in the Lone Star State alone making August 2011 the hottest month in Texas history, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). That’s almost as many records as are set across the entire nation in a typical month. Statewide, the average August temperature was 88.1°F, breaking the previous Texas record of 87.1°F - set just one month earlier in July. Both Oklahoma and Texas had the hottest July ever this year, with average temperatures of 88.9°F and 87.1°F respectively. Oklahoma’s statewide average temperature was the warmest for any state for any month on record.

Texas heat records at a glance.

Abilene, Texas, has had 79 days of 100°F heat as of Sept. 12, besting a city record of 46 days set in 1934. San Angelo, Texas, has seen 96 days of 100°F heat this year. Wichita Falls broke its 1980 record several weeks ago, and Tuesday marked its 100th day of 100°F this year, according to weather service figures. Tuesday was San Antonio's 55th day of 100°F or more.

College Station broke a 94-year-old record this year, and as Jeff Masters reports for Weather Underground, “the summer of 2011 now holds every major heat record for the city of Austin, including most 100°F days, hottest month in recorded history, hottest summer ever, and hottest day in history -- 112°F, tied with Sept. 5, 2000.”

Texas climatologists have recently stated that the ongoing dry spell is the worst one-year drought since Texas rainfall data started being recorded in 1895. The majority of the state has earned the highest rating of “exceptional” drought and the remaining areas are not far behind with “extreme” or “severe” ratings by the U.S. Drought Monitor. At the end of August, more than 80 percent of Texas was still in the grips of “exceptional” drought drought conditions , the most severe classification, and the remaining areas are not far behind with “extreme” or “severe” ratings by the U.S. Drought Monitor. So far, Texas has only received 6.5 inches of the 16 inches that has normally accumulated by this time of year.

The drought has contributed to the record-breaking temperatures and has created dangerous fire conditions that spawned deadly wildfires statewide. Nearly 18,612 wildfires have burned 3.5 million acres of Texas so far this year, according to the Texas Forest Service. That's about the size of Connecticut.

Record year for the U.S.

While the weather in Texas has been brutal, it hasn't been a picnic elsewhere. At least one weather station in all 50 states set or tied a daily high temperature record at some point during July 2011.

Almost 9,000 daily heat records were broken or tied in July, including 2,755 highest maximum temperatures and 6,171 highest minimum temperatures (nighttime records), according to the NCDC. Newark, N.J., set an all-time high of 108°F on July 22, breaking the previous record of 105°F, set in 2001. In Washington, D.C., Dulles International Airport recorded its highest July temperature of all time at 105°F, on July 22.

June, July, and August saw more warm temperature records tied or broken than any other summer in the past decade: more than 26,500 record warm temperatures were set across the nation.

By comparison, fewer than 3,500 record low temperatures were set — the fewest of any summer in the past decade. These records are daily records — that is, each day’s high and low temperature is compared to the high and lows for that day of the year in the weather station’s history.

Record high temperatures in the U.S. are outpacing record lows, which is consistent with what one would expect if temperatures are getting warmer due to global warming. On average, warm temperature records in prior years outnumbered cold records by about two to one. However, this summer the ratio is almost eight to one!

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