- June 2021 was America’s hottest June in 127 years.
- But this summer will likely fall well short of being the nation’s hottest.
- Still, summers have trended warmer in much of the U.S. since 1970.
Extreme heat has been a headline in parts of the U.S. since June, but summer 2021 will likely fall short of America’s five hottest summers on record.
June 2021 was America’s hottest June in 127 years of records. It didn’t just nudge ahead of June 2016 as the hottest, it obliterated that record by 0.8 degrees, an impressive interval in the realm of national temperature data.
A deadly late-June heat wave that smashed records in the Northwest and western Canada was a major contributor. Persistent heat from the Northern Plains into the upper Midwest and Northeast also helped set that record.
July, typically the nation’s hottest month, hasn’t been as anomalously hot over such a widespread area.
Compare the map below for the first 19 days of July to the one above from June.
While July’s heat turned up a notch partly from a major heatwave in the Great Basin, including Las Vegas and Death Valley, temperatures have been closer to average in the Great Lakes and Northeast. And it’s been cooler than usual in the typically searing central and Southern Plains.
In fact, July is on track to be the coolest in the U.S. since 2015, according to Todd Crawford, Director of Meteorology at Atmospheric G2.
That said, for dozens of cities in the West, it’s been the hottest summer-to-date, according to data from NOAA and the Southeast Regional Climate Center.
It’s also been one of the hottest starts to summer in parts of the Northeast, Great Lakes and upper Midwest.
So what are the chances 2021 will be the nation’s hottest summer?
Among the Top Five?
Much of the West and Northern Plains is expected to be hotter than average in August, according to an outlook released Thursday from The Weather Company, an IBM Business.
However, the rest of the country is expected to see temperatures generally near average in August.
Here are the five hottest summers on record in the Lower 48 states since 1895. (Meteorologists define three-month seasons based on what is typically the hottest time of year, June through August.)
Two summers during the Dust Bowl made the list, a period of severe drought and dust storms in the 1930s.
The summer of 1936 stands on a lofty perch for national heat.
Excessive heat was widespread that summer from Montana and North Dakota to the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley.
In 15 states, all-time state record high temperatures set in 1936 – some up to 120 degrees – still stand today.
A few state high temperature records from the summer of 1934, the nation’s fifth hottest summer, still stand today in three other states.
Last summer also made the top five list.
In 2020, above-average heat was more widespread than it has been in 2021 so far. It encompassed nearly the entire West, Northern and central Plains, Great Lakes and much of the East, including Florida.
It was the nation’s 11th hottest July, followed by its third hottest August.
Given summer temperatures so far and the forecast for August, summer 2021 likely won’t threaten 1936’s record, and may not crack the top five warmest summers.
Regardless of where it ends up on the list, summer 2021 will continue the long-term trend from climate change.
Seven of nation’s top 10 warmest summers have occurred this century, according to NOAA. Only two summers this century were cooler than average, 2004 and 2009.
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Since 1970, much of the U.S. has seen a warmer trend in summer, according to an analysis from Climate Central.
This is particularly the case from Texas to the West and also in much of the East from Florida to Michigan to New England.
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.