It’s Hot in Dallas – But it’s no 1980

I remember the summer of 1980.  I was 7 years old and we’d just moved into a Jim Walters home that you finished yourself.  Unfortunately the part we hadn’t finished yet was the air conditioning.  We survived the summer in one bedroom with a window unit.  We couldn’t leave the room because we would spontaneously combust.  Every time a weather man mentions 1980, I am taken right back to that prison of a bedroom.

Some stats from that brutal summer.

“The … weather conditions at Dallas-Fort Worth on a day during the heat wave of 1980 reveals that combination of weather ingredients that typically produce phenomenally hot conditions in summertime in Texas,” George W. Bomar wrote in Texas Weather (1983, University of Texas Press). “With high pressure prominent at all levels of the atmosphere over North Texas on June 26, 1980, a sky devoid of clouds — thereby allowing a maximum influx of solar radiation — teamed up with an arid desert like southwesterly wind to force the temperature at mid-afternoon to a level never before seen in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

“Once it settles into position, the subtropical ridge often budges only a little for periods lasting as long as several weeks at a time,” wrote Bomar, a meteorologist with the Texas Water Commission.

The heat wave scorched the ground and produced an all-time record of 69 100-degree days at DFW Airport. So far, 2011 doesn’t compare in that department. Through Thursday, 2011 had seen 34 official 100-degree days (tied for 11th most in the record books).

In 1980, temporary relief arrived from Hurricane Allen which moved inland across southern Padre Island on Aug. 9-10, bringing heavy rain and flooding to South Texas. Tornadoes hit Austin and inflicted much damage. In DFW, high cloudiness allowed maximum temperatures to fall into the 90s, providing limited relief from the greatest summer heat wave.

Thirty-one years ago, the maximum daily average high temperature was 99 degrees. The current maximum from July-August is 96. And in 1980, Dallas-Fort Worth averaged 21 100-degree days, while the current annual average is 16.

Some other fascinating summer of 1980 statistics from the National Weather Service and NewsWatch Dallas records:

  • Jun 7 — 1st occurrence of at least 100º
  • Sep 16 — last occurrence of at least 100º
  • Highest temperatures:
  • 113 — Jun 26-27
  • 115 – Jun 26 at Love Field
  • 112 — Jun 28
  • 110 — Jul 2 & 18
  • Most 100 degree days in a year — 69 (No. 1)
  • Greatest consecutive days of 100 degrees (longest heat wave) — 42 (No. 1)
  • 13th driest year (22.08 inches of rain)
  • 24th warmest year (66.8º annual average temperature)

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