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Texas Summer 2011–How hot was it really?

October 17, 2011
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According to NCDC data, Texas has just had its hottest summer on record. But how hot has it really been?

 

McCamey is a small town in the heart of Texas and its climate is pretty representative of Texas as a whole. There is a USHCN station there and the daily temperature records are available from NCDC back to 1932.

The 6 hottest summers in Texas during the 20thC were 1918,1934,1953,1954,1980 and 1998, though none reached the level of this year. How then does this summer in McCamey compare to 1980? (There have been no significant location changes since 1980 and TOBS is not a factor as observations have been made at 8.00 am throughout).

The first interesting thing to note is that in terms of maximum temperatures there is very little difference between the two years – 100.4F in 2011 against 100.2F in 1980. Furthermore it was 1980 that saw the hottest days and by a significant margin as the table below shows.

 

Max Temp 1980 2011
111 1 0
110 3 0
109 3 0
108 3 2
107 3 3

Number of Days

 

In contrast though, it was night time temperatures that bumped up means this year. Minimum temperatures averaged 76.1F this year compared to 73.7F in 1980.

Mean temperatures are up from 86.9F in 1980 to 88.4F in 2011. However an analysis of these mean temperatures shows the real cause of this divergence.

 

image

 

In other words, there were actually more  days above 92F in 1980. The real difference was that there were 14 more days below 83F in 1980 (18 against 4) offset by17 more days between 88F and 92F in 2011 (58 against 41). Most of the cooler days in 1980 came after 10th August – 10 days compared to just 1 this year.

From 1st June to 10th August the average mean temperature was 88.4F in 1980, virtually identical to the 88.5F recorded this year. In contrast the average from 11th August to 31st August was 81.9F and 88.0F respectively.

Conclusions? The summer this year has not been any hotter than 1980, it has simply lasted longer.

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