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When Was Your City's Hottest and Coolest Summer on Record?
Published: June 13, 2018
Summer can be a time of scorching heat across the U.S., but do you know when the hottest and coolest summer on record occurred where you live?
When a stubborn weather pattern with a strong ridge of high pressure becomes prolonged or persistent, records for the hottest summer can be set. Conversely, when the weather pattern over the summer is dominated by a southward dip in the jet stream records for coolest summer are possible.
We took a look at the average temperatures (factors in both high and low temperature each day) for June, July and August, which is known as meteorological summer, for 50 cities across the U.S. and calculated which years were the hottest and which were the coolest.
Below is a closer look at what we found.
Hottest Summers Have Been Fairly Recent For Many Locations
Out of the 50 cities we looked at, just over half of those have had the hottest June-August period since 2010.
The summer of 2010 saw the hottest temperatures on record for several locations across the Northeast and South:
- New York City
- Philadelphia (also June 2010 was the hottest June on record)
- Washington, D.C. (June also set a monthly record)
- Raleigh (June was also the hottest June on record)
- Miami (also set a monthly record for June)
- Louisville (June was also the hottest June on record)
- Little Rock
The next summer, 2011, was brutally hot and dry in the southern Plains. More than 50 percent of the southern region consisting of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee were experiencing exceptional drought, the highest category of drought, by the end of August, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The following locations saw their hottest summer in 2011:
- Houston (Both June and August set monthly records for hottest June and August)
- Dallas (also set a monthly record for August)
- Oklahoma City (Set monthly records for July and August)
- Midland, Texas (June and August set hottest monthly records)
- Albuquerque (August was the hottest August on record)
Farther east, Tallahassee also saw its hottest summer in 2011. The all-time hottest temperature on record here was set in June at 105 degrees and August 2011 is the hottest August on record.
The summer of 2012 was the hottest on record in Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming, and 2012 also holds the record for most 100 degree-days in Denver with 13.
In the last three years, numerous cities across the U.S. have set new records for the hottest summer (average temperature for the summer in parentheses), including:
- In 2015, the heat was focused in the West, allowing Phoenix, Boise, Idaho, Portland, Oregon and Seattle to see their hottest summers on record.
- In 2016, New Orleans, Charleston, South Carolina, Detroit and Anchorage, Alaska each recorded its hottest summer.
- 2017 is the holder of the hottest summer in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Reno, Nevada.
A few cities set records earlier this century, including Missoula, Montana (2007), Buffalo, New York (2005), Honolulu (2005), and Fairbanks, Alaska (2004). One of the worst years for wildfires in interior Alaska was also 2004.
Of the 50 cities examined, only San Francisco saw its hottest summer in the 1990s, specifically in 1993.
(NOAA's National Centers For Environmental Information)
Several cities saw their hottest summer in the 1980s including:
- Billings, Montana in 1988, which was the year of major fires in Yellowstone National Park and smoke reached as far as Billings.
- Minneapolis in 1988
- Boston in 1983. Boston's record tied 1949, the year that had the most days with a high at or above 95 degrees (14 days).
- Los Angeles in 1981.
- Atlanta in 1980, which is the year the greatest number of highs at or above 100 degrees occurred (tied with 2007) with 9 days. Two days in July recorded a high of 105 degree. The only other year with a high at or above 105 degrees is 2012.
(MORE: The Triple-Digit Club)
Other cities that have their hottest summer on record since 1950 are Caribou, Maine (1973), Marquette, Michigan (1955), Chicago (1955), Nashville (1952) and Jackson, Mississippi (1952). Some may be surprised that the hottest summer in Chicago is not 1995 which saw a deadly heat wave, but 1955 was warmer by a few hundredths of a degree.
Only 9 of the 50 cities we looked at saw their hottest summer before 1950, with most of those set in the Plains in 1934 or 1936 during the Dust Bowl. Both of those years are depicted on the map above from NOAA.
Those locations with records set before 1950 are Burlington, Vermont, in 1949; North Platte, Nebraska, in 1936; Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1936; Kansas City in 1934; Wichita, Kansas, in 1934; St. Louis in 1901; Pittsburgh in 1900; and Indianapolis in 1874.
Although many records have been set in recent years, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information notes that the warmest summer on record for the continental U.S. was 1936 during the Dust Bowl era.
Coolest Summers More Common 100 Years Ago
The pattern for when the coolest summer for each city occurred is generally the opposite of the hottest summer. Most locations saw the coolest summer on record before 1950, with only 16 of the 50 cities setting records since 1950. No records for coolest summer have been set this century.
Four cities saw their coolest summer in the 1800s (average summer temperature is in parentheses): Chicago in 1875, Houston in 1891, Missoula, Montana, in 1893 and Tallahassee in 1894.
The first decade of the 1900s is when several cities in the East and South saw their coolest summer:
- Jackson, Mississippi in 1900
- Boston in 1903. June and August also set monthly coolest temperature records.
- New York City in 1903 and also set a record for coolest June.
- Philadelphia in 1903 and June 1903 was also the coolest June on record here.
- Little Rock in 1903 and June was the coolest June on record.
- Dallas in 1903 and set a record for coolest June that year, as well.
- Washington, D.C. in 1907 and set a record for coolest June.
- Salt Lake City in 1907 and set a record for coolest June.
The decade with the most coolest summer records is the 1910s.
Several records were set in 1915 across the Plains and Midwest, including St. Louis, Omaha, Wichita, Kansas City, Bismarck, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Cheyenne and Detroit.
Other cities that set records in the 1910s include:
- San Francisco in 1911 and June 1911 was also the coolest June on record.
- Burlington, Vermont in 1912 and set a record for coolest August.
- Albuquerque in 1912.
- Phoenix in 1913.
- Los Angeles in 1916.
Several coolest summer records were set in the 1920s, with 1927 being a prevalent year as shown on the map from NOAA below where parts of the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and Northeast are highlighted. Cities with records during the 1920s are Miami in 1920, Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1922, Indianapolis in 1927, Buffalo, New York, in 1927 and Louisville, Kentucky, in 1927.
Just one city on our list set a record in the 1930s: Honolulu in 1933. June, July and August in 1933 all set monthly coolest temperature records here, as well.
One city also set a record in the 1940s for coolest summer, Las Vegas in 1941 and August 1941 was also the coolest August on record here.
(NOAA's National Centers For Environmental Information)
Both Seattle and Portland set their coolest summer on record in 1954. Also in the 1950s, Caribou, Maine (1956), and Charelston, South Carolina (1959), saw their coolest summer.
In the 1960s, only two cities set records. Reno saw its coolest summer in 1963 and Atlanta recorded its coolest June through August in 1967, as well as its coolest July on record that year.
Several cities saw coolest summer records set in the 1970s, including:
- Anchorage, Alaska in 1971 and coolest monthly records were also set in June and July of that year.
- Pittsburgh in 1976 and July and August also set coolest month records.
- Nashville in 1976.
- Midland, Texas in 1976 and July was the coolest on record.
- Raleigh in 1979 and experienced the coolest June on record.
Only New Orleans experienced a coolest summer on record in the 1980s, specifically 1984. The coolest July on record was also that year here.
A few cities across the northern tier of the U.S. observed their coolest summers on record in the 1990s. In 1992, North Platte, Nebraska, and Marquette, Michigan, measured their coolest summer. In 1993, Billings, Montana, and Boise Idaho, saw their coolest summer in both locations.
It is important to note that some cities have missing data and the period of record varies for each city. All but nine cities have data going back to at least 1900.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.