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Dozens of records smashed in Midwest during late-September heat wave

Temperatures rose above the century mark, smashing records in the latest in what has been a hot summer

Forecast highs Wednesday from the National Weather Service. Boxed values are records. (WeatherBell)

Dozens of high-temperature records were set in Midwestern cities Monday and Tuesday — and several more records are set to fall over the next few days, as the heat slowly relaxes in the Midwest and pushes deeper into the southeast.

A sprawling zone of high pressure often referred to as a “heat dome” formed over the Midwest, entrenching the region in days of persistently hot and dry conditions. Temperatures reached 100 degrees from Arkansas to Nebraska.

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On Monday, temperatures in Wichita climbed to 100 degrees, tying a record set in 1997. In Salina, Kan., temperatures reached a midsummer-like 102, tying a record set all the way back in 1931.

In Joplin, Mo., the mercury climbed to 97 degrees Monday, breaking the old record high temperature of 96 degrees set in 1952. In nearby Columbia, temperatures rose to 97 degrees, breaching the former record of 94 set in 2000.

Further west in Paducah, Ky., a daily high temperature of 97 on Monday tied a record set in 1954. More northward toward Rapid City, the temperature rose to an unseasonable 95 degrees, breaking the old record of 93 degrees, which was set in 1984.

The late-September heat wave fueling these highs is the latest in what has been a warm summer in the United States, the Northern Hemisphere and worldwide. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates that meteorological summer — which runs from June 1 to Aug. 31 — tied for the fifth-warmest worldwide in 143 years of records, and the Northern Hemisphere experienced its second-warmest summer on record. Overall, the United States saw its third-warmest summer in 128 years of record-keeping. Last year was the hottest summer on record, narrowly edging out the 1936 Dust Bowl summer, according to NOAA.

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The hottest record-breaking temperature of the day was set at Russell airport in Russell, Kan., where temperatures climbed to 103 degrees.

The heat wave continued in earnest Tuesday, and record-breaking temperatures were reported across a much wider area.

With the heat pushing farther into the southeast, Nashville saw temperatures climb to 99 degrees, breaking a nearly century-old record of 97 degrees from 1925. In Topeka, the mercury reached the century mark, with a record daily high temperature of 100 degrees beating a 98 degree reading from 1944.

In Concordia, Kan., a high of 102 degrees smashed the old daily record of 96, which was set all the way back in 1893. Temperatures in Lincoln, Neb., also rose past the 100 degree mark to 103, smashing the former daily record high of 96 degrees set in 2006.

Paducah saw its daily temperature rise to 100 degrees, the latest occurrence of a temperature at or above the century mark in the city’s recorded history. The same was true in Memphis.

As far west as Colorado Springs, temperatures climbed to 91 degrees, breaking the old daily high-temperature record of 90, set back in 1956. In Idaho Falls, Idaho, the temperature rose to a comparatively mild 86 degrees, breaking the old record of 83 set in 1966.

The heat will continue Wednesday, with several daily high-temperature records set to be challenged or beaten from Texas to Kentucky. In Dallas, the temperature is forecast to rise to 99, tying a record from 2005, while Memphis’s forecast temperature of 102 is expected to smash a record of 98 degrees set in 2010.

As far east as the Appalachian Mountains, a record-high temperature of 86 degrees in Bryson City, Tenn., is expected to fall as temperatures are forecast to climb to 92.

High minimum-temperature records could fall, as well, meaning temperatures will stay unseasonably warm overnight. In St. Louis, the forecast low is a balmy 76 degrees, 1 degree warmer than the previous record high minimum temperature of 75, set back in 2017.

By Thursday, a cold front pushing through the Midwest will bring some much-needed relief from the heat, dropping temperatures down into the 50s and 60s in spots that had seen 100 degree readings days earlier. Coincidentally, the cool air will displace the heat just as the fall equinox occurs at 9:03 Eastern that night.

But the southeast will hang on to summer a little longer. On Thursday, several records may fall in the Texas Gulf Coast and into the Carolinas, and by Friday several daily high-temperature records may be in jeopardy in Florida.

Even if temperatures are not record-breaking everywhere, the abnormal heat scorching the Midwest and southeast is certainly unseasonable, with temperatures generally climbing 10 to 20 degrees above their daily average.

In Lincoln, where temperatures rose to 103 degrees on Tuesday, the average daily temperature is 79 degrees, meaning Tuesday’s temperature rose 24 degrees above normal. In Memphis, where temperatures are set to climb to 102 degrees Wednesday, the daily average temperature is 85 degrees.

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