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.

Summer 2016

Now that Summer 2016 is but a memory, let’s take a quick look back at where it stands in the record books.


Summer 2016 Means
June-August Mean High: 85.5
June-August Mean Rank since 1878: 26th Warmest
While the average high for Summer 2016 was certainly warm, it fell just outside of the top 25. By comparison to recent years, 2010 (85.6), 2011 (85.7) and 2012 (87.7) all had warmer average highs.

June-August Mean Low: 66.1
June-August Mean Low Rank since 1878: 4th Warmest
The average low for the summer is what made 2016 much more exceptional. No recent years (last decade) were warmer, although 2010 did tie.

June-August Mean: 75.8
June-August Mean Rank since 1878: 10th
So if you thought this summer was hot, well you were right. Only 2010 (75.9) and 2012 (76.4) were warmer of any recent years.

Monthly Means
June Mean: 73.2
June Mean Rank since 1878: 17th Warmest
July Mean: 76.6
July Mean Rank since 1878: 20th Warmest
August Mean: 77.6
August Mean Rank since 1878: 6th Warmest
The summer gradually became hotter as it went on.

Summer 2016 Misc. Temperature Stats
# of 90+ Days: 18
90+ Days Rank: 22nd
Warmest High: 95
Warmest Low: 77
Coldest High: 72
Coldest Low: 48

Daily Temperature Records
June 11th: Record Warm Maximum Tie: 95: Tied with 1914 and 1933.
August 10th: Record Warm Minimum Tie: 75: Tied with 2001.
August 11th: Record Warm Minimum Tie: 76: Tied with 1918.
August 12th: Record Warm Minimum: 76: Beat record from 1947.
August 13th: Record Warm Minimum Tie: 75: Tied with 1995.


June-July Precipitation Total: 13.53″
June-July Precipitation Rank since 1878: 29th Wettest
Besides being warm, Summer 2016 was also fairly wet.

Monthly Precipitation Stats
June Precipitation: 5.22″
June Precipitation Rank since 1878: 29th
July Precipitation: 2.49″
July Precipitation Rank since 1878: 27th Driest
August Precipitation: 5.82″
August Precipitation Rank since 1878: 13th Wettest
So the summer was bookended by wet months with July being fairly dry.

Summer 2016 Misc. Precipitation Stats
Total Precipitation Days (including Trace): 45
Total Measurable Precipitation Days: 30
Measurable Precipitation Days Rank since 1878: 16th Highest
Days with 0.25″ or Higher: 16
Days with 0.50″ or Higher: 10
Days with 1.00″ or Higher: 4

Daily Precipitation Records
June 23rd: 2.75″: Beat the old record in 1901.

Summer of Rain 2015

This summer has been wet… very wet. Rain has fallen on far more days than not, and cloud cover has hung thick and heavy in what are historically much sunnier months. To top it all off, temperatures have been somewhat below normal.

How wet has summer 2015 been up through today? Meteorological summer runs June 1st-August 31st, and today makes the midpoint of that period, so I thought it would be a good time to check in and answer that question.

Here are the top 10 wettest summers through yesterday.

1. 1958: 12.54″
2. 2008: 11.68″
3. 1990: 10.93″
4. 2015: 10.66″
5. 1949: 10.40″
6. 1973: 10.23″
7. 1917: 10.06″
8. 1928: 10.02″
9. 1937: 9.75″
10. 1969: 9.38″

So 2015 is running the 4th wettest. It looks to be dry the next few days before more thunderstorms and rain return, so 2015’s position may end up rising.

What are the wettest full summers of all time? A few of the above years went on to be in the top 10, but not all.

1. 1958: 22.02″
2. 1979: 20.92″
3. 1995: 19.85″
4. 2003: 19.39″
5. 1969: 19.09″
6. 1915: 18.92″
7. 1992: 18.44″
8. 1973: 17.81″
9. 1989: 17.45″
10. 1949: 16.54″

Summer 2015 needs about 6″ more to reach into the top 10 wettest summers, which at the current pace is more than possible.

2008- Year of the Wind

January 8th-9th Severe Weather

Record warm temperatures in the upper 60s on the 7th-8th of January, 2008 gave way to storms and even a rare January Tornado Watch on the evening of the 8th. Winds had been gusty all during the day of the 8th, but reached their peak with the frontal passage storms. Rain and thunderstorms began moving into Ohio during the late afternoon and increased in intensity through the evening, prompting the NWS to issue a Tornado Watch just after 10pm. Although no tornadoes were reported anywhere in Ohio on the night of the 8th-9th, the storms brought with them rains of 1-2″ and winds of up to 70mph, causing many reports of minor structural damage and scattered power outages.

January 29th-30th Windstorm

The second, more intense wind event for January in Ohio came during the last few days of the month. A very strong low pressure moved north and west of Ohio as strong high pressure moved south into the Plains. The resulting gradient caused winds to increase. Winds were sustained between 30-35mph most of the 29th. When the front arrived during the evening hours, winds ramped up even more. Winds were sustained at 40-45 with gusts between 60-70mph. There was very little precipitation with this front. Damages were widespread.

On a personal note with this event, I witnessed several power poles bent over and large business signs blown out from the force of the January 29th-30th wind event.

Hurricane Ike and Ohio’s Worst Windstorm

On September 1st, 2008, a tropical depression formed in the central Atlantic Ocean. That same day, the depression strengthened enough to gain a name: Ike. No one in Ohio anticipitated that this storm, far out in the Atlantic, would cause the most widespread, destructive windstorm the state had ever seen.

Ike gradually became a hurricane and roared west and then southwest over Cuba before turning back to the northwest and into the Gulf of Mexico. He churned westward growing in size as he went. The windfield of the hurricane was gigantic. Hundreds of miles from the center, tropical storm force winds were pounding parts of the Gulf Coast, giving an indication of the wind and surge potential.

Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston, Texas early on Saturday, September 13th with maximum sustained winds of 110mph. After landfall, the system turned to the north and then to the northeast as it hooked up with a frontal boundary that was draped across the Midwest. The system became extratropical by the end of the day on the 13th and gradually accelerated to the north and east towards the Great Lakes.

Now, at this point, that would normally be the end of the story. A dying tropical system far inland tends to produce a lot of rain and flooding, but wind is not usually an issue. And indeed, parts of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois saw major and disastrous flooding from a combination of the frontal boundary and the remains of Ike. However, a very unusual situation occurred.

Over the Gulf of Mexico and up through landfall, Ike was never quite able to translate upper level high winds down to the surface. The sustained reading of 110mph at landfall never seemed to actually materialize in reports on the ground, and the vast majority of the damage along the Texas coastline was due to significant storm surge brought in by the massive size of the storm. However, Ike’s inability to translate the highest winds to the surface was about to change.

Ike maintained a very low pressure of between 986 and 990 throughout the journey through the OV and Great Lakes, and as he transitioned from tropical to extratropical, the remains actually intensified and Ike retained a large amount of his original wind field, particularly on the eastern side.

No one forecasted this. The NWS, as late as Saturday evening, had forecast winds of 25mph in gusts for much of Ohio.

On the morning of Sunday, September 14th, 2008, the National Weather Service in Wilmington had issued a Wind Advisory for its forecast area calling for gusty winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50mph. However, things began to rapidly change. Kentucky was already getting rocked with high winds of over 50mph, and the winds seemed to intensify even more as the core began to move into Ohio through Cincinnati.

By late morning, winds in Cincinnati had reached a *sustained* speed of 54mph with gusts to hurricane force! These heavy winds began to ride up the I-71 corridor, reaching Wilmington by noon and Columbus by 2pm. For several hours, high winds pounded the area. Sustained winds over 50mph were common, and gusts of 70-80mph were widespread. The winds did not begin to die down until after 6pm, and by 8pm, the area had gone almost completely calm.

When the storm was over, over 1/10th of the entire state’s population was without power, including more than 55% of Columbus. Tens of thousands of trees had fallen, and debris of all kinds was everywhere. Power lines had been snapped, signs had been blown down, billboards had been destroyed, and thousands of homes had sustained structural damage. Power remained out for thousands for up to two weeks after the storm passed.

The story was the same up and down I-71 up through Cleveland, although damage there was less than that in central and southern parts of Ohio. The severe wind field was about 100 miles across and centered through the major cities on I-71. Insured losses from this storm totaled well over a billion dollars, and total damage likely exceeded two billion. This makes the Great Windstorm of 2008 one of the most damaging storms for Ohio of ANY kind in recorded history.