Dozens of locations across the eastern half of the United States got their hottest October days on record this week in one of the most intense early-autumn heat waves in U.S. history. The October heat came on the heels of what was the hottest September on record in more than 50 U.S. locations, strewn across the nation from Hawaii and Alaska to Florida.
If this were a midwinter in our warming climate, a heat wave might have the bittersweet upside of at least feeling pleasant, but there’s no way to put a comfortable spin on this week’s misery. In many places, the multi-day heat wave produced temperatures that would have been scorching even for midsummer. For example, Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., soared to 98°F on Wednesday. As noted by Capital Weather Gang, almost half (40%) of all summers in the D.C. area since 1872 failed to get that hot on even a single day, much less on a day in October.
A number of southern locations reached the century mark (100°F) for the first time in any October. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, hit 100°F Tuesday and 101°F Wednesday and Thursday, the first triple-digit readings in city history for October. The same was true in Meridian, Mississippi, which did even “better”, hitting 101°F Tuesday and 102°F Wednesday and Thursday.
Tuscaloosa and Meridian are among the Southern cities that pulled off a rare and disconcerting hat trick: setting or tying all-time monthly record highs on three consecutive days. Here are the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday temperatures for several of these unlucky spots:
Nashville, TN: 98°F, 99°F, 99°F (old record 94°F on Oct. 1, 1933; records start in 1873)
Knoxville, TN: 95°F, 96°F, 96°F (old record 94°F on Oct. 3, 1884; records start in 1871)
Chattanooga, TN: 97°F, 100°F, 100°F (old record 94°F on Oct. 5, 1954; records start in 1879)
Tallahassee, FL: 95°F, 96°F, 97°F (old record 95°F on Oct. 9, 1941, and Oct. 1, 1933; records start in 1892)