The dog days are here… hot, hot and more hot!

Temperatures have been heating up the past week as broad high pressure at the upper levels of the atmosphere has built over the region. Though not atypical of summer in the south, humidity levels have also been high, which has prompted daily Heat Advisories as heat indices have topped out in the 105-115° range.

High temperatures during the current heat wave.

A bit of history

However, for those who have been around the Mid-South their whole life (or at least the past 35 years), you’ll recall the wicked hot summer of 1980. During July of that year, there were 19 days with highs at or above 100°, including a record stretch of 15 consecutive days. That was also the year that the all-time record hottest temperature occurred in Memphis – 108° on July 13th.

High temperatures at or above 100° during the summer of 1980.

A brief interruption in the heat

Earlier this week, a series of convective complexes made their way through the Midwest in the “ring of fire” – the zone around the periphery of the high that convective systems follow. While most of these stayed to the east of the Mid-South, a small cluster of storms formed in eastern KS and tracked through southern MO into northeast AR and across the metro on Tuesday night.
As the storms reached the Mid-South during peak heating, they encountered a highly unstable airmass. The result was a summer storm that brought widespread 50-60 mph wind and many smaller pockets of 60-70 mph wind to the metro. In fact, an 87 mph gust was recorded in Atoka in Tipton County!  Nearly 30,000 MLGW customers were without power after the storm and tree debris (in some cases whole trees) littered the landscape. A video of the radar data from that storm system is shown below. Notice also that storms fired up quickly in the late afternoon heat to our north, in an east-west fashion ahead of a cold front that remained to our north.

Into the weekend

The high pressure system has re-established its hold on our weather now though and it appears to remain entrenched right through the weekend. Thus we will see more mid to upper 90s highs, lows barely below 80, heat indices in the danger category, and nearly a zero percent chance of rain right into early next week.

Next week

By Tuesday/Wednesday, the ridge weakens a bit again (similar to earlier this week), which could allow for some airmass “popcorn” thunderstorms ahead of a weak front on those days. And just like earlier this week, the front itself will not move south of us. Thus cooler temperatures and lower humidity will again have to wait. Early signs are that the ridge of high pressure once again establishes itself over the region to end next week and temperatures remain well above normal as we head towards the end of July. Unfortunately there is little in the way of good news for those who like a break from the heat and humidity of the “dog days” of summer!

Heat Safety

We remind you that the effects of heat are cumulative – the longer it stays hot, the less capable people are of tolerating it. This is especially true for the youngest children, our older adult community, and those with medical conditions. Also, don’t forget about your pets! It may be the dog days, but that doesn’t mean your canine friends enjoy it more than you! Our complete guide to staying safe in the Memphis heat can be found here or check out the tips below to stay safe, if not completely comfortable, during these hot days!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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