Monday, August 08, 2011

2011 vs. 1980

Eric Berger, SciGuy:

I’m running out of superlatives to describe this summer’s heat, so this week I’m going to focus in on 100-degree days, especially after the run of them we’ve had to start August. So far every day this month has reached the century mark.

All told this summer we’ve had eighteen 100-degree days. That’s more than three times the normal for a Houston summer, which is five. But it’s not the most.

The city’s record for most 100-degree days came in 1980, with 32. The following table shows how our 100-degree days each month stack up. We’re already seventh this year with just one-quarter of the month gone.

Rank June July August September
1. 10 (1902) 18 (1980) 14 (1993) 5 (2000)
2. 8 (1980) 13 (1998) 10 (1999) 4 (1995)
3. 7 (2011) 10 (2000) 9 (1902) 3 2005)
4. 7 (2009) 7 (1909) 8 (1998) 2 (1909)
5. 4 (1906) 5 (1978) 8 (1962) 2 (1907)
6. 2 (1998) 4 (2011) 8 (1907) 1 (1985)
7. 2 (1934) 4 (2009) 7 (2011) 1 (1980)
8. 2 (1930) 4 (1995) 7 (1951) None
9. 2 (1911) 4 (1986) 7 (1909) None
10. 1 (2006) 4 (1969) 6 (2009) None

Interestingly there’s never been a 100-degree day in Houston in May, although it did hit 99 degrees in 1996.

I spent June through August 1980, my last summer before graduating from Lamar University, as a laborer at the Mobil (now Exxon Mobil, of course) refinery in Beaumont. Two things I remember ...

1. Just as Eric's chart above indicates, it was 100 degrees or more nearly every day in July (August was strangely cooler). I was assigned to the coking unit and they took the furnaces down for a maintenance turnaround. We would crawl into them, clean them out for a few minutes, and then come out. It was about 115-120 even after those giant ovens had cooled overnight, and exiting them into the one-hundred-degree air outside felt like opening the freezer door in your face -- an instant but brief blast of coolness.

2. Just before I was about to leave the plant for the fall semester, Hurricane Allen swirled into the Gulf and rapidly strengthened to a Category 5. That hurricane was so big that the radar pictures showed him filling the entire Gulf of Mexico. We spent a couple of days scrambling all over that coker pulling down hoses and buckets and mallets and wrenches and anything else that could conceivably become a projectile in a gale-force wind.

(If you haven't already read the Wiki link above, Allen eventually went in just north of Brownsville and took a straight shot at Big Bend before petering out.)

That was the hottest, dirtiest, meanest, nastiest summer of my life. But this one's coming close to it.


James Dorrell said...

Hey bro, I remember the summer of 1980, how could I forget the oppressive heat and working in an oil refinery. However, I think 2011 is worse. Maybe it's because I am now in Ft. Worth and we are having 106-110 degrees every day. Low temps each morning are in the upper 80s ! Many water wells are going dry and water mains are cracking daily. Not to mention trees and landscaping are dying regularly. I never thought I would be wishing for a tropical depression or hurricane to come into the Gulf.

Throckmorton Jones said...

Oddly enough, here in Lancaster, California, we've had an amazingly mild summer so far. Normally by July we are having 112* days, only getting hotter and hotter until it breaks at the start of September.

Instead, we had one week of stifling temps in June, and its been around 95 to 100 ever since. Its definitely a nice relief, though I am wondering what winter will be like.