Residents of the northern Plains have been no stranger to intense heat so far this summer, but in parts of the southern Plains, the high heat that the region usually sees over the summer has been delayed until this week.
Last weekend, a heat dome continued to build across the northern, central and southern Plains and is predicted to linger and strengthen through much of the week. For parts of the northern Plains, this will likely add to the already high number of 100-degree days this year. Meanwhile, to the south, some cities usually accustomed to several 100-degree days by this point in the summer, reached the century mark for the very first time this year during the first part of this week.
For the first time this year, DFW has reached that magical temperature of 37.8° Celsius, A.K.A. 100° Fahrenheit! This is more than 3 weeks later than normal; the average first 100°F day for DFW is July 1st. #dfwwx
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) July 25, 2021
One such city is Dallas. The weather in Dallas this summer has been warm but not all that hot, finally experiencing a triple-digit temperature for the first time in 2021 on Sunday, July 25, more than two dozen days behind the average pace.
On average, Dallas experiences its first 100-degree day on July 1, and the city came close on that one day this year, with the mercury topping out at 98 degrees. Dallas also flirted with the century mark a few other times this month, but didn't quite reach 100 degrees until Sunday.
Wichita Falls, Texas, is also forecast to reach 100 for the first time this year, while Abilene, Texas, hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time on Sunday. Both cities usually reach 100 degrees for the first time much earlier than Dallas. In Wichita Falls, the average first 100-degree day is June 9, and for Abilene, it is June 16.
There has been quite a contrast from north to south in the Plains through June and July. Bismarck, North Dakota, is one location in the northern Plains that has been particularly hot.
Bismarck is averaging nearly 8 degrees above normal since June 1. The city has reached 100 degrees or higher on 10 days this year. This included readings of 106 degrees on June 4, 103 degrees on June 5, and 107 degrees on July 3, all of which set daily records. Another record was set on Thursday with a temperature of 105 degrees, breaking the record of 103 degrees from way back in 1901. The city reached 102 degrees on Monday. While the southern Plains will get in on more of the heat next, the core of the heat will still be found over the northern Plains.
Widespread 100-degree readings are likely across much of the northern Plains, challenging daily temperature records.
The heat in northern Plains can at least partially be attributed to the ongoing extreme to exceptional drought. When there is a drought, the sun's energy can go directly into heating the ground.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, drought is much less extensive across the central Plains and there are no drought conditions present in the southern Plains, where plenty of rain has fallen this spring and summer. The sun must first work to evaporate moisture in cases where the ground is saturated, and this has held temperatures back in the southern Plains.
But even with the building heat, some places in Texas and to the immediate north may still fall short of the 100-degree mark.
Oklahoma City has yet to reach 100 degrees. However, the city could flirt with the century this week.
"Wichita, Kansas, has had 11 days so far this month where the thermometer reached the 90s, but highs are forecast to be within a few degrees of 100 on one or two days this week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Sadvary said.
By the middle of the week, higher temperatures are expected and the current forecast has the mercury nearing 100 degrees in Wichita on Wednesday and Thursday.
Heat advisories, watches and warnings (orange, red and purple) were in effect for a broad portion of the central United States on Wednesday morning, July 28, 2021. (AccuWeather)
Forecasters warn though that even though the temperatures may not rise as high in the southern Plains when compared to the northern Plains, it doesn't mean the same dangers won't be present.
"It will also be very humid farther south, which is also part of the reason the actual temperature won't climb quite as high," explained Sadvary. But AccuWeather meteorologists warn that with the combination of heat and humidty, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will soar well into the 100s and even 110s.
A break in the intense heat is finally expected by late week, with temperatures in the 80s and lower 90s forecast from North Dakota to Nebraska. Temperatures farther south may still be in the middle to upper 90s, but that is right around normal for late July.
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