Sunday, August 29, 2010


Predictable, persistent domes of high pressure have accounted for the 2010 summer heat wave in north Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth area had an 18-day streak of 100+ degree days that began on July 31 and lasted through August 17 ranking it as the 7th longest period of consecutive 100+ degree days for the DFW area. While August 18 only hit a high of 96° the temps soared back above 100 following that brief respite from the heat. That newest heat wave was showcased by the record setting 107 degrees on August 23 (and a nearby 110°) which tied the record high previously set in 1952 and buckled concrete roads. Heat advisories accompanied by heat indexes of 107 to over 110 have been commonplace. And, yes, we have humidity (lots of it) in north Texas - no dry heat a la Arizona.

While these numbers are impressive and this summer may ultimately rank in the top five hottest, we probably need not invoke some catastrophic, human-inspired Goresque global warming prediction (though we do need to reduce fossil fuel emissions) or divinely inspired apocalypse. It has been much, much hotter in the past. In 2006 we experienced 100+ degrees for 19 days straight (August 8-26). In 1999, the extreme heat lasted for 24 days (July 28-August 20) and 1998 was worse with a streak that lasted 29 days (July 6-August 3). In 1980 Dallas experienced 42 century-plus days in a row (from June 23 to August 3), a record that still stands in north Texas. In 1980 those high temperatures exceeded 100°F for 69 days with all-time highs achieved on June 26 and 27 when the real air temperatures reached 113°F. In all, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex saw 29 days in which the previous record high temperature was either broken or tied. Those records still stand.

Having said that, I do think that my childhood years in north Texas were far more uncomfortable overall and vividly remember the severe Texas drought and heat of the 1950’s and specifically the summer of 1953 when tar and gravel streets melted when temperatures exceeded 100°F for 52 days. The difference then was the fatal combination of heat and extreme drought which we are not now experiencing. My childhood perceptions are probably colored by less than efficient AC systems then and more time spent in the great outdoors. It would appear that more areas of the country are now sharing our heat induced misery.

I do remember some folks performing a rain dance the summer of 1980 at the picturesque Turtle Creek fountain across from Lee Park (as in Robert E.) in Dallas. Surprisingly, it did rain the next day though not nearly enough to break the heat wave which persisted for yet another month.

During the course of my recruiting efforts I talk with folks all over New England and they too have had their bout with the heat this summer. Several weeks ago one very frustrated and overheated lady in Biddeford, ME recounted that the temperature on her deck hit 102 degrees – well above normal for coastal Maine! That’s time for a dip in the 70°north Atlantic… When the Buxton Boys set up residence in Pawtucket and later Providence, RI from 1954-on we thought that the sun was going super nova and we were all going to die in some flaming inferno when the temperature hit the always, unusually high 90°. Well, again, that was an excuse to hit the RI South County beaches.

The geraniums that I was able to heroically save from last winter’s freezing and subzero temperatures via a makeshift greenhouse are now mostly gone due to the intense heat. They stopped flowering and then unceremoniously gave up the ghost despite watering and fertilization. They now reside in the Buxton record book in plant heaven with my less than spectacular 2009 tomato plants that yielded only one fruit (the $30.00 split tomato) due to the intense heat… I am now growing a very healthy bumper crop of hardy rosemary that loves the heat. Can sage be far behind?

We need not forget that south and central Texas including Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio experienced extreme drought and excessive heat for a couple of years until the rains returned last year. The pendulum swings back and forth – all part of that El Nino/La Nina thing… The Climate Prediction Center says we are now moving towards a La Nina weather pattern.

Before we start feeling sorry for ourselves let’s put this in perspective. As much as I hate the high, extreme temperatures all I have to do is conjure memories of horrific Hurricane Katrina that hit five years ago today and the suffering and indignities endured by those incredibly brave residents of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans who now appear to have to fight a new gorilla each year.

Spider bite or not (it’s slowly improving – sort of), it was very pleasant in Montana with daytime highs generally only in the 80’s with even a couple of nights dipping into the 30’s. The Weather Channel reminders of 105° temperatures in the DFW Metroplex gave us good reason to be thankful for our then northern geography.

The bottom line is that Texas is Texas and it gets hot here. It is what it is… Would we rather be in Pakistan where extreme high temperatures have been commonplace (new Asian record of 128 degrees), not to mention the devastating floods that have ravaged over 1/5 the country? Now comes the disease…

We are blessed, Aye

Ned Buxton

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