Searing summer could set Tucson record

2012-07-19T00:00:00Z 2012-07-19T14:27:23Z Searing summer could set Tucson recordDoug Kreutz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Tucson could still be on its way toward breaking a heat record - even after a recent spell of relatively cool weather.

The record in question is for the number of days when temperatures have hit or topped 100 sizzling degrees in a single year. The current record, set in 1994, is 99 days.

Last week, the city pulled slightly ahead of the 1994 pace for triple-digit days by this time of year - making it possible to rack up a total of 100 or more such days by the end of the hot season.

Highs in the 90s in recent days have slowed the pace - but meteorologists say the record could still fall.

"It's still possible to break the record if we end up having a warmer than normal August and a continued run of warm weather in September," said Steve Reedy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Triple-digit temperatures returned Wednesday with an even 100. Reedy said the 100-degree-plus run could continue through the weekend.

The number of triple-digit days so far this year: 46.

WHY THE 100-degree RUN

J.J. Brost, another meteorologist with the Weather Service, said that "we've had so many 100-degree days because we had high pressure in place - providing the right conditions" for consistently high temperatures.

Brost said Tucson got off to a fast start on the run to a possible new record.

"We hit 100 in April this year," he said. "That didn't happen in 1994, so that put us ahead of the pace."


No mystery as to what's needed for the not-exactly-coveted record to fall: hot days, hot days and more hot days.

"We would need to turn on the heater and keep it running through the second week of September if we want to break this record," Brost said. "We would need to have many more 100-degree days in July and then hit 100 almost every day in August and some days in September. ... But this, of course, is one of those records that nobody really wants to break."

Even if the total were one or two days shy of the record by the end of September, it still might not be too late.

"We have recorded 100-degree days in October," Brost said. "It's within the realm of possibility."


"When the atmosphere is heated and that heat is combined with moisture, it creates an unstable environment and gets the thunderstorms going," Brost said. "A key ingredient during our monsoon is the heat."

The outlook for the rest of the monsoon: "It's difficult to say," Brost said, "but the Climate Prediction Center is leaning toward a wetter monsoon than normal."


Extreme heat - even in a desert locale such as Tucson - brings problems and inspires what might be called "coping behavior."

Among the problems: air conditioning units that fizzle in the sizzle.

"We have nine service technicians who do nothing but repair and maintenance - and for the last two weeks it's been very, very busy," said Wade Hamstra, general manger of Hamstra Heating and Cooling. "Our guys are working 55 to 60 hours a week."

Hamstra said the first extreme heat of the season causes a "surge" in air conditioning failures. "Then we have another surge when we get the monsoon humidity."

Coping behavior ranges from jumping into a swimming pool to savoring ice cream and other cold treats.

"It's consistently busy right now," said Brad Rainey, general manager of three Tucson locations of Frost - A Gelato Shoppe. "In the summertime, sorbets are very popular. It's just fruit, water and sugar - a very refreshing way to cool off."

"We would need to have many more 100-degree days in July and then hit 100 almost every day in August and some days in September. ... But this, of course, is one of those records that nobody really wants to break."

J.J. Brost, National Weather Service meteorologist

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4192.

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