Hot is hot, and there’s no doubt the weather has been that way lately.
Obviously, the recent pattern has resembled the one we were stuck in for about three months last summer. But the unfortunate difference this time around is that rainfall was so unusually scant in the preceding months.
Peoples’ memories aren’t always sharp when it comes to weather, but some might recall that about half of Texas County washed away last year during an April monsoon and May was basically cold and damp by May standards. No such thing in 2012; just lots and lots of springtime sunshine.
I guess what’s also different this year is that the heat has already come in the form of triple-digit temperatures rather than “just” high-90s like last June. And it kind of goes without saying that sparse moisture and 100-plus degree temperatures are not a good combination for the Ozarks.
But since the heat is on, it’s worth noting that it’s a repeat performance of sorts. This area was hit hard with blazing weather during the exact same calendar period 60 years ago.
In fact, if 2012 wants to be remembered as bearing the hottest early-summer stretch, it’s going to have to go some to beat 1952.
Using temperature readings for West Plains recorded on the Weather Underground web site, it’s interesting to do a little comparison between the two years.
By June 23, 1952 was already scorching when the mercury rose to 99, a record that still stands. June didn’t get cooking until a day or two later this year and, and we were wearing sweaters and gathering around the fire on the 23rd as the high got up to “only” 90.
On the 24th, 2012 began to heat up with an offering of 97, but 1952 was already in the clubhouse at 100 – again, a record that still stands.
But 2012 kept on swinging and threw a roundhouse punch on the 25th that hit its mark and resulted in a high of 101, a record for that date in West Plains. Neither year can found in the record high column for the next couple of days. But while 2012 rolled out a respectable 98 on the 28th, it wasn’t enough to better the record high of 101 posted by 1952.
Realizing it was going to take something special to get in the record books, 2012 got serious and laid down a blazing 106-degree reading on June 28, definitely a record, and one that should be hard to beat. But 2012 couldn’t maintain its momentum and fell back to 98 again on June 29, not enough to top 1952’s record of 101.
June of 2012 ended with another triple-digits reading of 101 on the 30th, but having notched a 103, 1952 will go at least one more year holding the record for that date.
So to recap, two record high temperatures were recorded in West Plains during the final eight days of June in 2012, while records still stand from readings on six dates from the same period in 1952.
But 1952 wasn’t the only year in the early 50s when the heat cranked up in early summer in the Ozarks. I’ve spoken to more than one of Texas County’s more experienced residents who refer to several consecutive years when the heat was on during that time.
Temperature readings from Springfield reflect that, and show 2012 vying for heat supremacy against 1954 as well as 1952. Some Weather Underground records for Springfield in late June:
June 25 – 99 (tie)
June 28 – 101
June 30 – 99
June 29 – 100
June 25 – 99 (tie)
June 26 – 99
June 27 – 101
Some people would claim that the Earth has recently shifted, or that sunspots are more active, fluorocarbons released into the atmosphere have reached dangerous levels, or the oceans have been fouled to the point where their effect on climate has been altered. One – or even all – of those things may well be true, but something weather-affecting anomaly must have been going on in the early 1950s, too.
Whatever the case, the heat and dryness of south-central Missouri in 2012 can’t be ignored and certainly shouldn’t be downplayed. I just hope that the fact that there’s little to no hay being baled here doesn’t end up leading to a situation like the one that took place last year in Texas and Oklahoma, where relentless heat and dryness literally dried up lakes and created a grassless landscape that forced numerous cattle ranchers to sell thousands of animals for a fraction of their value rather than watch them die.
But hey, maybe between the time I wrote this and when people read it, some rain has fallen on this region’s parched ground.
God’s will be done.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.