Recap of record-breaking heat this past July in the U.S. + Asian heat record?

By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:52 PM GMT on August 02, 2012

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Recap of record-breaking heat this past July in the U.S. Possible new heat record for Asia observed

Although the final ranking of this past July will not be released by the NCDC until around August 7th, it would appear that the month will almost certainly rank in the top five warmest July’s on record since official records began in 1895 (and perhaps even in the top three). Here is a summary of some of the more notable records set so far this summer. In addition, I have included a brief message concerning a potential new heat record for the continent of Asia.



Although this map is specifically for July 5th, it represents the overall pattern that most of the country has been stuck with for almost the entire month of July 2012.

Warmest Single Month on Record (any month)

Preliminary data from the NCDC reports that 4,313 record daily highs, 293 monthly record highs, and 171 all-time record highs were observed this past July (among the approximately 5,500 various official weather sites across the nation). Many of these sites, however, have limited periods of record that do not extend back to the 1930s when the country’s greatest heat waves occurred.

The WU extremes U.S. database follows 298 significant sites in the country, all of which have long periods of record (almost all back to the 19th century) and represent a mosaic of evenly spaced geographic locations representing all the climate zones in the country. About 90% of the country’s population resides within a 50-mile radius of one of these sites. From this list the following cities recorded their single-warmest month on record:



The following cities from the WU extremes database have broken or tied their all-time absolute maximum temperatures on record (including this past June):



Comparing this July to July of 2011

Perhaps what is truly astonishing is that this July (2012) piggybacks upon the equally torrid summer (and July) of 2011. Although, back-to-back record-breaking hot summers are not unheard of (summers in the 1930s and 1950s come to mind) it is nevertheless disconcerting.

Here is a comparison of extremes reached in July 2012 versus July 2011. Also, to put this in context, is a comparison to July of 1936, still almost certainly the hottest July (and single month) in U.S. records. Again this list includes only the 298 cities in the WU database:



This table shows the number of cities (out of 298 in all) that recorded their respective single-warmest month on record and absolute maximum temperature on record for the June-July month timeframes in 2012, 2011, and 1936.

Honorable Mentions

Other major cities came VERY close to breaking their all-time warmest single month on record including Washington, D.C. (National Airport) with a July average of 84.0° just shy of the record 84.5° set last July (2011). The Dulles Airport location was also close with 80.6° vs. 81.0° in July 2011. Raleigh, North Carolina averaged 83.5°, shy of their record 84.1° set in August 2007. Chicago, Illinois official site at O’Hare Airport registered an average of 81.1° just short of the 81.3° record set in July 1995. However, the Chicago Midway Airport location, which is more representative of the city itself and also has a much longer period of record (POR) than O’Hare, smashed its all-time warmest month record with an average of 82.6° versus 81.3° in July 1955. Louisville, Kentucky experienced its warmest ever July with an average of 84.5°, but fell short of its single-hottest-month record of 85.0° set in August 2007. Madison, Wisconsin (home of my alma matter!) has just endured its 2nd hottest month on record with a 79.4° average, just short of the record 79.8° set way back in July 1901.

Of course, this is just a short list of the many amazing ‘heat feats’ this past July. I should also mention a couple of the many endurance records that have been set:

Fort Wayne, Indiana: 22 consecutive days above 90° ending on July 18 (old record was 14).

St. Louis, Missouri: 11 days above 105° (old record was 10 in 1934). Also, St. Louis tied its warmest night on record with a low of 86° on July 25th (also occurred on July 24, 1901).

New Asian Heat Record Set?

On a similar topic but different continent, I have late word in from temperature detective Maximiliano Herrera that on July 31st a temperature of 53.6°C (128.5°F) was measured at Sulaibya (Sulaibiya), Kuwait. This location is on the outskirts of Kuwait city and is a water treatment facility.



A Google map image of the location in Kuwait of Sulaibya. Google Earth image.

Although the Kuwaiti meteorological office must make a final determination towards the records validity, a local expert, Dr. Juergen Herrmann (Team Leader Meteorology Specialists, Stanley Consultants, Int’l based in Kuwait) has the following comments in response to a request from Max for additional details:

“We are aware of the new record temperatures. There is no reason why these should not be considered records. Everything is technically OK at the station. You may have detected that the same day we had quiet an amount of other stations in the "vicinity" also have high to record temperatures.

The microclimate at this agro-station is surrounded by high sand dunes and thus has very low wind speeds at 2m height [which] results in a local heat island. Therefore I would not consider this temperature representative for an area bigger than 0.5x0.5km. The next station to Sulaibiya which gives a proper picture for the surrounding area is Jahra - 40586 - and had maximum temperature at the same day of 51.8 deg C. To my best guess this verifies both stations are working properly. Especially as a number of other stations also had really high temperatures that day due to generally low wind speeds with nearly no dust reducing the incoming solar radiation.”

If verified, this would surpass the 53.5°C (128.3°F) measured at Moen Jo-Daro, Pakistan on May 26, 2010. The reading of 54°C (129.2°F) from Tirat Tsvi, Israel on June 22, 1942 remains under suspicion. The Israeli Met. Office pursued an investigation of the record this past year (prompted by an enquiry from the WMO and myself) and concluded it was valid. However, they have refused to make public the details leading to their conclusions, so until they do so the record remains suspect.

KUDOS: Maximiliano Herrera for uncovering yet another possible world record temperature.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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13. ncstorm
6:25 PM GMT on August 09, 2012
12z Euro running

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 13430
12. Globe199
9:09 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
What's the source for that 300mb/isotach map?
Member Since: May 15, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 53
11. Neapolitan
8:58 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
Quoting biff4ugo:
Don't slam scientists 100 years ago.
Looking at bathymetry surveys from 1800's I am always impressed with their meticulous precision. Sloppy is sloppy 100 years ago or now. However, there are amazing works of precision in our history, and a thermometer is not that hard to read, even with sweat dripping in your eyes.
120+ degrees with no AC???
http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/wp -content/uploads/melted_ice_cream_truck_small.jpg
Oh, I'm slamming neither scientists of yore nor their technology; I'm just saying that both have improved substantially since then, that's all. Here are side-by-side comparisons of two technologies, one 100 years old and the other current:

temp

temp

My primary comment, however, was directed at a fallacy clung to by some (though not necessarily expressed in this thread) that says any and every temperature mismeasurement or misreading that took place back in the day was wrong on the low side, and that the actual temp was always actually hotter than recorded.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13256
10. Some1Has2BtheRookie
7:11 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4728
9. biff4ugo
6:34 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
Don't slam scientists 100 years ago.
Looking at bathymetry surveys from 1800's I am always impressed with their meticulous precision. Sloppy is sloppy 100 years ago or now. However, there are amazing works of precision in our history, and a thermometer is not that hard to read, even with sweat dripping in your eyes.
120+ degrees with no AC???
http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/wp -content/uploads/melted_ice_cream_truck_small.jpg
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 113 Comments: 1495
8. bell32ndst
5:40 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
Neapolitan,

Well, I would like it to be a little cooler here, it's been warm lately. So I'll just go down to the official site, blow some air over ice onto the thermometer, and voila!, the whole city will be cooler. ;-)
Member Since: November 29, 2010 Posts: 133 Comments: 25
7. Some1Has2BtheRookie
6:04 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
Christopher, I have a question to ask you.

I just came across this article, by Dr. James Hansen:

Blame blistering heat waves on global warming, study says.

Dr. Hansen bases this article on statistical data as opposed to climate models. While I would certainly agree with Dr. Hansen that weather systems have become more extreme and more frequent over my life time (60+ years) what does the statistical data show over our known weather extremes and frequencies over the past 1800 years? I know there have been extreme weather events of the past. Where they as pronounced in intensity and duration as what we are experiencing over the past 250 years? Also were these events so dispersed across the globe as they are now?

Thank you.

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4728
6. GeorgiaStormz
6:03 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
interesting...
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9451
5. OldLeatherneck
5:57 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
Christopher,

Thanks for all the work and effort you put into research and maintenance of the records. You are providing a valuable tool for this site. Not enough folks take the time to thank you....so I will THANK YOU on behalf of the many who depend on your efforts!
Member Since: May 2, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 180
4. Neapolitan
4:17 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
Quoting bell32ndst:
I'm curious. Do any of these record levels of temperature (here I refer to the US) take into account the heat island effect of urbanization? The US dollar has lost ~ 97% to 99% of its value in the last 100 years. So comparing dollar figures between these times is essentially meaningless (for other reasons, including technological change, as well). The case of temperature is simpler, but it seems to me the same principle applies. No one then was recording temperatures in places that have remained unchanged over the last 100 years. Why would they? There were no people there, so who cared? It would seem a likely project to create meteorological stations in undeveloped (and likely to remain undeveloped) locations now, for the future. True readings in identical conditions must be considered superior to comparisons involving adjusted temperatures.
A countering factor would be that 100 years ago, both technology and technicians were not nearly as precise and accurate as they are now; we've seen ample evidence of this. So it would seem there's just as good a chance that earlier measurements overstated the situation as understated it, wouldn't it?

To answer your question, yes, the U.S. temperature stations most definitely take siting into consideration. Every station has been vetted thoroughly from every angle to ensure it's correctly sited, situating, operating, and read. Every station is built, configured, and maintained according to a very strict set of guidelines. And ones that act up--as happens from time to time with technology--are removed from the record until repaired and rechecked. Bottom line: we can and should have complete faith in them.

At any rate, the UHI is a real and quantifiable phenomenon. That is, a thermometer doesn't care whether a particular station becomes warmer through urbanization, climate change, natural variations, or someone holding a candle under it; it just merely measures what is happening. So if Kuwait City is overall hotter now than it was in 1912, then it's overall hotter, period.

I like to use a little reductio ad absurdum when discussing this. Imagine a world 100 years from now when population growth has run amok, and every square foot of land is covered by concrete and buildings and people. In such a dystopia, there's little doubt that the UHI effect would be felt everywhere--let's call it the Global Heat Island Effect. Now, would it be unfair, meaningless, or illegitimate to say that earth's surface had truly warmed by then? If the answer is yes, please explain how. And if the answer is no, at what arbitrary point in time would you say the UHIE ceased to play a part in the overall warming?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13256
3. Neapolitan
4:13 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
Quoting maxcrc:
Yes, unfortunately Israeli Met. Service is a shame, their incompetence is second only to their bad faith.
Their "official" lowest temperature is also incorrect, a silly reading error, despite all evidence they haven't corrected it, perhaps they are ashamed to admit a mistake ? It would also be childish. The unofficial record low is also wrong and the official record of of Jerusalem is also incorrect (not recorded with a Stevenson Screen). The 2010 heat wave was even stronger than the one of June 1942, in fact other nets of stations in Israel have recorded between 50C and 51C in 3 stations and the Jordan deepest stations below sea level also surpassed the levels of 1942. The hydro station nearest Tirast tsvi (but not exactly at the same location) was unable to record more than 48C in 2010 with atmospheric conditions worse than the ones in 1942.
A couple of miles away the temperature record was indeed beaten.
How explain the 5C-6C difference in few miles (from Deghanya which recorded 49.0C) at the same elevation with the exact conditions ? It's not explainable with PHYSICS OF ATMOSPHERE, therefore they refuse to explain the unexplainable ,of course.
And it's clear they didn't make any investigation, since they were not aware of other bogus over 50C recorded in a couple of faulty stations in other years.The truth is Tirats Tsvi is WELL WELL less hot than places 200 meters more deeper below sea level (and this is not a surprise) like Qalya, Almog, Jericho, Deir Ella, etc and the degree of subsidence heating depends on clear PHYSICS LAWS. Whoever think Tirats Tsvi could reach 54C (and even 50C is way too much) is either unaware of the geographical and climatic details of the zone and/or has not knowledgments of the basics of the physics of atmosphere, which means they shouldn't keep their jobs.T. Tsvi real air T in June 1942 was between 48C and 49.3C. The quantity of glitches in the thermograph was appaling, worsened by an incompetent observer who was rounding at the incorrect round figure the reading. A total and complete disaster. A scam, not a record, or maybe a record of disgrace.The new Asian record set on 31 July 2012:that's it.

PS: The Tirats Tsvi record IS NOT SUSPECT: it's a ridicolous, absurde and clearly phisically impossible value of a place which has never and will never ever get near 50C. But what a pity the ignorance reigns superbe in this world and the white-collar "doctors" in meteorology are in fact clowns with a total ignorance of the basics laws of atmoshpere and physics.
Gee, Maximiliano. Can we assume you gently disagree with the Tirats Tsvi "record"? ;-)

Nah, I've seen the 6 June 1942 thermograph trace from Tirats Tsvi--in fact, I'm looking at it now--and it is pretty much abundantly clear that the scribbled temperature and arrow pointing at the thermal peak are overstated by between 1.4 and 2.0 degrees Celcius. That's incredibly sloppy work, if you ask me. It's disheartening to think that the Israeli Met Office professionals met behind closed doors, decided the "record" was solid, and then refuse to divulge just how they arrived at that conclusion. In my mind, it definitely deserves an asterisk, if not expulsion.

Speaking of: inspired by the Olympics, I pole vaulted over 8 meters last weekend, demolishing Sergey Bubka's still-standing 1994 record of 6.14m. At least, that's what my drunken uncle wrote down after he watched me do it. But you can trust me; I talked with him last night down at the bar, so I'm satisfied that he correctly wrote down the height... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13256
2. bell32ndst
3:44 AM GMT on August 05, 2012
I'm curious. Do any of these record levels of temperature (here I refer to the US) take into account the heat island effect of urbanization? The US dollar has lost ~ 97% to 99% of its value in the last 100 years. So comparing dollar figures between these times is essentially meaningless (for other reasons, including technological change, as well). The case of temperature is simpler, but it seems to me the same principle applies. No one then was recording temperatures in places that have remained unchanged over the last 100 years. Why would they? There were no people there, so who cared? It would seem a likely project to create meteorological stations in undeveloped (and likely to remain undeveloped) locations now, for the future. True readings in identical conditions must be considered superior to comparisons involving adjusted temperatures.
Member Since: November 29, 2010 Posts: 133 Comments: 25
1. maxcrc
2:22 PM GMT on August 03, 2012
Yes, unfortunately Israeli Met. Service is a shame, their incompetence is second only to their bad faith.
Their "official" lowest temperature is also incorrect, a silly reading error, despite all evidence they haven't corrected it, perhaps they are ashamed to admit a mistake ? It would also be childish. The unofficial record low is also wrong and the official record of of Jerusalem is also incorrect (not recorded with a Stevenson Screen). The 2010 heat wave was even stronger than the one of June 1942, in fact other nets of stations in Israel have recorded between 50C and 51C in 3 stations and the Jordan deepest stations below sea level also surpassed the levels of 1942. The hydro station nearest Tirast tsvi (but not exactly at the same location) was unable to record more than 48C in 2010 with atmospheric conditions worse than the ones in 1942.
A couple of miles away the temperature record was indeed beaten.
How explain the 5C-6C difference in few miles (from Deghanya which recorded 49.0C) at the same elevation with the exact conditions ? It's not explainable with PHYSICS OF ATMOSPHERE, therefore they refuse to explain the unexplainable ,of course.
And it's clear they didn't make any investigation, since they were not aware of other bogus over 50C recorded in a couple of faulty stations in other years.The truth is Tirats Tsvi is WELL WELL less hot than places 200 meters more deeper below sea level (and this is not a surprise) like Qalya, Almog, Jericho, Deir Ella, etc and the degree of subsidence heating depends on clear PHYSICS LAWS. Whoever think Tirats Tsvi could reach 54C (and even 50C is way too much) is either unaware of the geographical and climatic details of the zone and/or has not knowledgments of the basics of the physics of atmosphere, which means they shouldn't keep their jobs.T. Tsvi real air T in June 1942 was between 48C and 49.3C. The quantity of glitches in the thermograph was appaling, worsened by an incompetent observer who was rounding at the incorrect round figure the reading. A total and complete disaster. A scam, not a record, or maybe a record of disgrace.The new Asian record set on 31 July 2012:that's it.

PS: The Tirats Tsvi record IS NOT SUSPECT: it's a ridicolous, absurde and clearly phisically impossible value of a place which has never and will never ever get near 50C. But what a pity the ignorance reigns superbe in this world and the white-collar "doctors" in meteorology are in fact clowns with a total ignorance of the basics laws of atmoshpere and physics.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 142

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.