Heat Wave, USA – 2011

Posted on August 7, 2011


It’s been a warm year, although perhaps not as crowded with record-breaking temperatures as last year—but no year compares to last year.  Yet still fairly toasty in many places.

In 2011, new national records have been set so far in:

  • Congo Brazzaville [39.2/102.6]
  • Iraq [53/127.4],
  • China [50.2/122.4]
  • Iran [52.6/126.7]
  • Armenia [43.7/110.7]

While Russia was catching fire last year, it was relatively cool in North America.  Not so this year.  More than 200 million US citizens are being affected by the current heat wave.

In the USA, so far this year, all-time high temperature records have been set in the following places:

Connecticut:  Hartford, max. 39.4 [102.9]

New York:  Bath, max. 39.4 [102.9]

New Jersey:  Newark, max. 42.2 [108]


    • Altoona, max. 39.4 [102.9]
    • Renovo, max. 40.6 [105.1]

Virginia:  Washington Dulles Int. Airport, max. 40.6 [105.1]

West Virginia:  Buckeye, max. 36.1 [97]


  • Tallahassee, max. 40.6 [105.1]
  • Marianna Airport, max. 40.6 [105.1]


  • Fort Smith, max. 46.1 [115]
  • Little Rock, max. 45.6 [114.1]


    • Goodwell Research, max. 44.4 [111.9]
    • Oklahoma City, max. 41.7 [107]


  • Amarillo, max. 43.9 [111]
  • Borger, max. 45 [113]
  • Dalhart, max. 43.3 [109.9]
  • Morton, max. 43.9 [111]
  • Panhandle, max. 44.4 [111.9]
  • Plainview, max. 44.4 [111.9]
  • Shamrock, max. 47 [117]
  • Silverton, max. 43.9 [111]
  • Turkey, max. 46.7 [116.1]
  • Wellington, max. 45.6 [114.1]
Actual temperatures are relevant, of course, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.  The heat index measures how temperatures actually feel.  Just as cold feels colder with the wind, hot feels hotter with the humidity.  And the flooding of much of the Mississippi basin earlier this year, coupled with the heat, has left the area humid.  Memphis, Tennessee, for instance, has felt warmer than 120oF in recent days.
And heat waves are measured not only in how hot they get, but how long they last as well.  How many hot days have there been?  The following map shows the number of days the thermometer reached 100oF around Oklahoma to the end of July this year. How hot was this July in Oklahoma compared to previous years?Take the hottest July ever.  Add a degree F to every single day.  That’s Oklahoma in July 2011.  (More to come, of course.)
Oklahoma recently confirmed 14 deaths from the heat since May, three of which were last week, with still another 11 heat-related deaths suspected.  In and around Dallas, Texas, 14 heat-related deaths have been confirmed since late June.  By August 3, Dallas had experienced 34 consecutive days of temperatures above 100oF.
But again it’s not always how hot it gets in the day that really defines a heatwave.  It’s how cool it gets at night.  And it hasn’t really been getting cool at night.  In fact, that’s one of the things about climate change.  It warms the night even more than it warms the day.  Minimum temperatures have been rising faster than maximum temperatures, and that makes a heat wave even harder to bear.  87 minimum daily temperature records have already been set so far in August.  
The above map shows the temperature anomalies in the USA for the week of July 20-27, the height of the heat wave.  A temperature anomaly demonstrates how far a temperature departs from the recent norms of that given period.






Posted in: climate change