Worst Heatwaves in History





The next week looks to be very warm and humid, with heat advisories popping up all over the region.  While this heatwave looks bad, it’s definitely not the worst Columbus has ever had.  Let’s take a look at some of the worst.

To find out what the worst heatwaves were, I looked at average temperatures for different consecutive time periods- 3 days, 7 days, 10 days and 30 days. Unsurprisingly, some historically hot summers popped up, particularly from the 1930s.

Top 5 3-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/20-7/22/1934, 7/9-7/11/1936, 7/12-7/14/1936: 103.3
2. 7/24-7/26/1934, 7/8-7/10/1936, 7/10-7/12/1936, 7/11-7/13/1936: 102.7
3. 7/8-7/10/1881: 101.3
4. 7/2-7/4/1911, 8/5-8/7/1918, 7/21-7/23/1934, 7/7-7/9/1936: 101.0
5. 7/3-7/5/1911, 7/13-7/15/1936: 100.7

Top 5 7-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/8-7/14/1936: 103.1
2. 7/9-7/15/1936: 102.1
3. 7/20-7/26/1934, 7/7-7/13/1936: 101.7
4. 7/10-7/16/1936: 100.7
5. 7/19-7/25/1934, 7/11-7/17/1936: 100.3

Top 5 10-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/8-7/17/1936: 101.0
2. 7/7-7/16/1936: 100.8
3. 7/6-7/15/1936: 100.2
4. 7/9-7/18/196: 99.8
5. 7/5-7/14/1936: 99.2

Top 5 30-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 6/29-7/28/1936: 92.7
2. 6/28-7/27/1936: 92.6
3. 6/27-7/26/1934: 92.5
4. 6/26-7/25/1934, 6/30-7/29/1936: 92.3
5. 6/28-7/27/1934: 92.2

So with a few exceptions, the heat waves in 1934 and 1936 dominated for high temperatures. The top 5 highest individual temperatures ever are:
1. 7/21/1934, 7/14/1936: 106
2. 7/9/1936: 105
3. 7/22/1901, 7/4/1911, 7/25/1934, 7/11/1936, 7/14/1954: 104
4. 7/10/1881, 8/5/1918, 7/22/1934, 7/12/1936: 103
5. 7/12/1881, 7/4/1897, 8/6/1918, 7/24/1934, 7/26/1934, 7/8/1936, 7/27/1936, 6/28/1944: 102

High temperatures in the upcoming heatwave should only reach the mid-90s.

Now that we’ve see the worst periods for high temperature, let’s look at the worst for the mean temperature, which is the average between the high and low. This details those periods that provided little relief even at night.

Top 5 3-Days Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/20-7/22/1934: 90.5
2. 7/8-7/10/1881: 90.3
3. 7/9-7/11/1881: 90.0
4. 7/10-7/12/1881, 7/9-7/11/1936: 89.8
5. 7/12-7/14/1936: 89.5

Top 5 7-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/8-7/14/1936, 7/9-7/15/1936: 89.1
2. 7/6-7/12/1881: 89.0
3. 7/20-7/26/1934: 88.9
4. 7/7-7/13/1881: 88.6
5. 7/5-7/11/1881, 7/10-7/16/1936: 87.9

Top 5 10-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/8-7/17/1936: 87.4
2. 7/7-7/16/1936: 87.2
3. 7/5-7/14/1881, 7/6-7/15/1881, 7/9-7/18/1936: 87.1
4. 7/4-7/13/1881: 86.9
5. 7/6-7/15/1936, 7/7-7/16/1881: 86.6

Top 5 30-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 6/27-7/26/1934: 81.4
2. 6/28-7/27/1934: 81.3
3. 6/26-7/25/1934: 81.2
4. 6/29-7/28/1934, 7/19-8/17/1940, 7/20-8/18/1940, 6/28-7/27/2012: 81.0
5. 7/18-8/16/1940, 6/29-7/28/2012: 80.8

1934 and 1936 still dominate, but 1881 makes a strong showing. Only 2012 shows up with anything in the last 60 years, and that year also saw one of the worst wind events in Ohio history, partially fueled by the heat of that summer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2012_North_American_derecho

Finally, let’s look at periods that featured consecutive days with highs of 90 degrees or higher. What are the longest?

# of Consecutive Days with Highs 90 or Above
1. 7/3-7/16/1881: 14
2. 7/18-7/30/1940: 13
3. 6/24-7/5/1934, 7/7-7/18/1936, 6/28-7/9/1949, 7/21-8/1/1999: 12
4. 7/20-7/30/1901, 8/4-8/14/1918, 8/25-9/4/1953, 8/8-8/18/1988, 6/28-7/8/2012: 11
5. 7/27-8/5/1887, 9/7-9/16/1897, 7/29-8/7/1955, 6/13-6/22/1994: 10

A short video and article from 2016 about the 1936 heatwave, still the hottest in history.
https://www.nbc4i.com/local-news/columbus-resident-remembers-1936-heat-wave/1114607375