An extreme heat wave is hitting Texas and surrounding states. Temperatures in much of that region have been near and past 100 for days, and they will rise there and beyond in the days ahead. Heading toward its peak, this is the most significant heat wave in Texas since 2011, and some record highs could even be in jeopardy before it finishes.
A large swath of the south-central part of the country is under either a heat advisory or an excessive heat warning Thursday. More than 8 million residents of Texas are included in the excessive heat warning that runs through Friday. It is the first heat warning that includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area since August 2011. There have already been five days in a row of 100 or greater in that city, with at least that many more to come.
This is all thanks to a sprawling high-pressure system anchored over the western half of the country. Over coming days, this high pressure should shift east toward the Four Corners and the Southern Plains. This will allow already hot temperatures to turn more extreme.
Eric Berger of the Houston-area Space City Weather blog says that “it will be as bad or worse than expected.” In Texas, a state that’s used to crazy heat, this is never a good thing.
As the forecast for the next five days from the high-performing European model (up top) shows, almost the entire state of Texas as well as surrounding areas are expecting to top 100 on the regular through the weekend or into early next week.
Houston and other coastal zones may catch something of a break, at least before the weekend. Berger writes, “Houston, with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, won’t bake quite as much as northern Texas.”
In this case, the term “bake” may be an understatement, in parts of North Texas, in particular.
Lest you think the European model — with its smattering of 110s — is completely bonkers, the National Weather Service (NWS) office that covers the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area highlights similar ideas (below from this morning’s technical forecast discussion):
Temperatures will climb to near or above record values this afternoon with highs of 105-110 degrees likely within the warned area. Both DFW and Waco’s record highs (107 and 106, respectively) will be attainable.
Looking to the future, the NWS notes:
Strong upper level high pressure will continue to dominate North and Central Texas through early next week. This will result in record breaking temperatures in many locations and essentially no chance for measurable rainfall. Afternoon high temperatures Friday and Saturday should be the hottest we have seen this season with most locations heating up between 104 and 110.
Even before reaching full maturity, this scorching heat has already caused record energy demand across Texas. Additional demand and consumption records seem likely to be tested and bested again in the days ahead as the heat wave peaks.
Fortunately, the electric grid seems to be holding up. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Texas has not suffered blackouts or brownouts, which happen when there’s not enough power on the grid to meet demand.” But utilities are asking customers to trim energy use in the afternoons, when temperatures and air conditioning demands are at their peaks.
While this may be the most significant heat wave to affect the region since 2011, that year will be hard to top. The summer of 2011 was among the hottest on record for many folks in the region. It also came in the midst of an exceptional and widespread drought, amplifying the intensity. (Only parts of Texas this year are reporting extreme drought levels.)
For example, Dallas-Fort Worth recorded an incredible 40 days in a row of 100-degrees or higher in 2011, ending Aug. 10. So far this year, they’ve piled up five 100-degree days and should head for at least 10. Beyond that, temperatures are expected to fall to around 100 for a lengthy period of time.
It is, however, certainly possible that record temperatures could be neared or even broken in a few places in the days ahead.
A 110 reading would be a top-10 value in Dallas, something that has not occurred since Aug. 2, 2011; 113 is the record there. It’s a similar story in Waco, where it hit 108 Wednesday. That’s roughly a top 30 hottest day and the hottest since 2011. The record there is 112.
And as eyes focus on Texas, keep in mind that other states in the region are dealing with wild heat, as well. NWS Norman, Okla., is talking about dangerous heat, the worst there since 2012. In Louisiana, the heat indexes to around 110. Same story in Arkansas, where heat index values could approach 115 in some spots.
There may be relief on the horizon by next week, at least for places north of the Red River, as a cool-down is anticipated. The Lone Star State, however, is expected to remain hot through the month, which is typical of July in Texas. We’ll hope it’s a more palatable heat.