Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TOP STORY >> Record hot, dry spells

Leader staff writer

With 21 days of 1o0-degree plus temperature, no one can doubt this summer has been hot and dry.

But where does it rank among all-time heat waves in central Arkansas? Number one? No, not even close. In the top five — not yet. Number six? Yes. But if the 100-degree days continue, this summer could easily make its way into the top three.

According to local meteorologist Tom Brannon of Cabot, 1980 is number one with 47 days of 100-degree or higher temperatures; 1954 is second with 46 triple-digit days; 1998 is third at 27 days; 2000 with 25 days; 1943 with 23 days, and then 2012 with 21 and counting.

With all of August to go yet, I can see this summer ending up third on the list,” Brannon said.

On average, Arkansas sees five 100-degree days in a year.

Here’s a look back at some of the worse heat waves and dry spells in the state:

 In 1980, a heat wave covered most of Arkansas from June 22 through Sept. 17, producing the hottest July on record. Little Rock saw 47 days of 100-degrees or more during this heat wave.

 The drought of 1953 saw Wilson (Mississippi County) go 101 days without measurable rainfall, which is, according to the weather service , the longest dry spell in the state.

A summer-long heat wave in 1954 caused 74 out of 75 counties to seek drought relief because of severe agricultural losses. Forest fires destroyed thousands of acres of timberland and the forestry commission said the dryness has forests in their most incendiary condition in 20 years. Late in June, Searcy and Conway saw temperatures hit 107 degrees. In July, almost every reporting station in the state hit 103 or more during the month. Ozark tied the state monthly record, hitting 116 on July 13. Little Rock hit 100-degrees or more 10 days in a row and 16 out of 17 days during the month.

 In August 1935, Hot Springs saw five days in a row with temperatures of 110-degrees or more, topping out at 113 degrees.

 A summer-long hot, dry spell in 1936 set state records. On Aug. 10, the heat wave hit its peak with a recording of 120-degrees in Ozark ( a state record), 118 in Booneville, 117 in Texarkana, 113 in Fort Smith and 110 degrees in Little Rock.

 In the summer of 1934, Ozark saw 54 straight days with 100-degree plus readings from June 20 through Aug. 12, a state record.

 In 2000, the state saw a late summer heat wave and dry conditions that started in July and continued through October. Little Rock had one of its hottest Augusts ever and recorded 11 consecutive 110-degree plus days from Aug. 25 through Sept. 4, including 109 degrees on Aug. 30.

 The summer (June-August) of 2010 was one of the hottest on record for Arkansas. Little Rock saw 90 consecutive days of 90-degree or warmer, beating the old record of 57 days set in 1980. The average summer temperature (a combination of the high and low) was 85.8, breaking the record of 85.4 set back in 1954.

 The summer of 2011 was drier and hotter than 2010, becoming the hottest on record for central Arkansas and many other portions of the state. On Aug. 3, the heat wave peaked, as almost all stations reported 105 degrees or more. Little Rock hit 114 degrees and Fort Smith reached 115 degrees. A week later a cold front moved through breaking up the heat wave.