Beyond The Forecast: Comparing our recent heat wave to the past

Heat wave stats
Heat wave stats (WSLS)

Happy Monday! It’s no secret that it’s been hot in our corner of the Commonwealth this July. It’s the second hottest start to the month in Roanoke, with an average temperature of 80.8 degrees.

You’ve likely heard us talk about where our recent heatwave ranks in history. The longest heatwave (consecutive days where the high temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher) happened from June 23 to July 14, 1966. At 22 days, that heatwave blows all others out of the water in Roanoke as second place comes in at 17 days. This year’s heatwave is tied with a few others at 12th on the list.

Top 5 heat waves
Top 5 heat waves (WSLS)

If we dig deeper into the numbers, we find that July 2020′s heatwave compares more favorably with that 1966 one. During that 22 day stretch 54 years ago, the max temperature was 100 degrees and the minimum was 57. The temperature averages out to 79.5 degrees over the full 22 days.

1966 heat wave daily temperature data
1966 heat wave daily temperature data (NOAA Regional Climate Centers)

What ends up being surprising is that this recent heatwave has been HOTTER on average than the 1966 one, even though, (by definition) it ranks lower on the list.

We’ve peaked at 95 degrees so far this month, but the lowest low temperature was just 65 degrees. As mentioned earlier, we’ve started July with an average temperature of 80.8 degrees, beating out the 1966 heatwave by 1.3 degrees.

2020 heat wave daily temperature data
2020 heat wave daily temperature data (NOAA Regional Climate Centers)

We’ll start this week with the best opportunity to break our heatwave as our forecast calls for us to fall just short of the 90-degree mark this afternoon. The heat will be locked in for the rest of the week as highs range from the low to mid-90s every day.

7 day high temperature trend
7 day high temperature trend (WSLS)

In addition to the heat, we’re tracking comet NEOWISE plus when storms could threaten southwest and central Virginia. Your Local Weather Authority’s Chris Michaels is breaking it all down in our daily weather article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, New River Valley, Southside, or elsewhere around southwest and central Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather content on WSLS.com. Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can follow Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

-- Justin McKee

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