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According to NOAA, the average temperature for all of the Lower 48 states from June through August was 74.0 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.6 degrees above average. That barely edged out the Dust Bowl year of 1936 for the top spot as the hottest summer on record by less than 0.01 of a degree. Meteorologists define summer based on what is typically the hottest time of year, June, July, and August.

California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah all had a record-hot summer. An additional 21 states had a top-10 hottest summer, stretching from the Front Range of the Rockies and Northern Plains to the Great Lakes and Northeast.

Here's the breakdown by climate divisions. The NW third of the nation is where the worst of this years heat was centered.

If you've studied or paid attention to the Midwest's climate, chances are you know 1936 is the benchmark year for heat in Iowa and surrounding states, (and it still is for that matter). This year Iowa recorded its 112 hottest summer out of 127 years of reliable data which only makes 2021 the 15th warmest on record, nowhere close to 1936.

The Summer of 1936

Across Iowa during the peak of 1936's heat, statewide temperatures averaged this: July 14, 108.8; July 13, 107.1; Aug. 18, 106.4; July 15, 106.4; July 24, 106.1; July 17, 105.6; July 25, 102.9.

Seven of the hottest 10 days in Iowa history occurred in the summer of 1936. By June 15, the death toll in Iowa was 232. According to the National Weather Service 5,000 deaths were associated with the heatwave nationally that summer. Notice below how the heat in '36 was directed at the center of the nation, not the northwest like this year.

Below you can see the 1936 summer departures for just high temperatures compared to average.

The hottest temperature in Iowa during 1936 was measured in Atlantic, July 25th with a reading of 117. Amazingly, that is not the state record for heat. That belongs to Keokuk at 118 degrees, July 20, 1934.

Keeping cool that summer was a massive challenge without the benefit of air conditioning. Fans blowing over blocks of ice was a creative way for these ladies to keep their cool.

Many people resorted to sleeping on porches or out in the open as opposed to indoors where ventilation was limited and temperatures were a few degrees cooler.

Ironically, the preceding winter is still considered to be one of the worst (if not the worst) in Iowa history. Statistically, the winter was Iowa's second coldest and fourth snowiest, but it was, in many ways, the most brutal. An average 43.0 inches of snow fell the winter of 1935-36, most of it in a concentrated period from mid January through February. Blizzards hit the state Jan. 16 to 18, Jan. 22, Jan. 30, Feb. 2, Feb. 8 to 9 and Feb. 26. The 36 day stretch from January 18th to February 22nd was the worst of it. The statewide average temperature was 2.4 degrees below zero. Come mid-February, 1-3 feet of snow covered Iowa with 10-20 foot drifts common. At its peak, ice on the Iowa River near Iowa Falls was 42" thick.

More than 20 people died during the blizzards, along with countless livestock. Farms were isolated for weeks. Wildlife froze in place. People ran out of coal, with some burning corn and furniture to keep warm. Passenger trains got stuck in drifts. These pictures were taken around Vinton and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Newspaper stories that winter said the snow was so extreme that caterpillar tractors couldn't plow the roads, so they were joined by groups of men with scoop shovels. In the midst of the Depression, 1600 men from the Works Progress Administration cleared streets in Des Moines.

As the snow piled higher and temperatures tanked, hardships began to mount. Mail delivery stopped and farmers couldn't transport milk and eggs. By February coal, the primary source of heat, was in short supply because rail lines were shut down, so schools and churches were closed and business hours shortened to conserve fuel.

In time, spring came and Iowans smiled knowing they'd endured the most severe winter in Iowa history. Little did they know, the summer of1936 would be just as memorable -- and just as extreme on the opposite scale as the winter. It is still my contention that for a year as a whole, 1936 is the worst in Iowa history considering the seasonal extremes.

Due to the length of this post (it's such a fascinating year I couldn't help myself), I will keep the rest of this brief as there's not much going on other than another warm-up which gets underway Thursday. Models have tempered readings just a bit in recent runs but are still advertising well above normal temperatures that should generally be in the mid to upper 80s Friday through Monday of next week. Thursday won't be quite as warm with low 80s for the most part.

The one rain chance between now and Tuesday remains on the table for Friday evening. Models are in two camps with the evolution. The wetter camp includes the GFS and the 3K NAM. They both generate scattered showers and storms along a passing boundary. There is some cape, nothing impressive but enough to generate modest instability. Moisture may be the problem and might be overdone on the GFS and 3K. Something else to consider is a cap which would need to be overcome for any showers and storms to develop. Ultimately, these factors and the timing of the forcing will dictate the outcome. I can't rule out some scattered activity but I'm going conservative for now favoring the lighter camp of the EURO and 12K NAM, especially as difficult as it's been to generate rain lately. That's just my gut feeling, we'll see where the trail is leading us tomorrow. Here's the wetter 3K NAM and GFS rain forecasts.

The 3K NAM


Now the drier solutions of the EURO and 12K NAM


The 12K NAM

One thing is for sure, before the warmer temperatures really kick in, Thursday should be another fine late summer day although it will turn breezy by afternoon. Make it a good one and roll weather....TS


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