For those of us who live along the East Coast, this has been a pretty nice summer. With constant shots of cool air and low humidity filtering in from the north (thanks, Canucks!), temperatures are staying right around normal. The West, on the other hand, is baking. How does this summer compare to summers past?
At the end of last month, we took a look at the summer up to that point to bust the myth that this is one of the coolest seasons we've ever seen. It's not, but it just feels like it because we're not roasting in back-to-back heat waves like we saw in recent years. Of course, that's not true for folks out west, where San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle are all measuring their hottest summers on record.
Based on a reader request earlier in the week, I took a look at all of the summers on record in 10 cities across the United States to see how 2014 stacks up against previous summers. I used data recorded at most area airports, with the exception of New York City, for which I used Central Park.
The charts use the average temperatures for meteorological summer, which ranges from June 1 through August 31. The average temperatures take into account both the highs and the lows each day of the month, which are averaged together to form a monthly average temperature; the resulting three monthly average temperatures are then averaged together again to arrive at the summer's average temperature.
A simplified way to understand it is that if the average temperature is 80 degrees, it means that the high was 90 and the low was 70 (90+70=160...160/2=80).
For 2014, the averages only run up through August 13. The values will likely change as we head into the second half of the month, but it gives us a good snapshot of where this summer is likely to land in the record books.
Let's take a look at where each of these 11 major U.S. cities stand so far this year.
This summer in Boston is sitting just a hair above average as of August 13, with an average temperature of about 71.4°F. As we found last month, summer 2014 in Boston is nowhere near the coolest nor the warmest on record: the two warmest summers on record are tied between 1949 and 1983, and the coolest was 1964.
New York City
In Central Park, temperatures so far this season are sitting just above average, clocking in little over 74°F. This summer is eclipsed by the warmest on record, which was 2010's 77.8°F. The coolest summer on record in NYC occurred in 1903, with average temperatures coming in just under 70°F.
Further south along I-95 near Washington, D.C., we're looking at a summer that's about one degree cooler than average. Much like NYC, the warmest summer ever recorded at Dulles Airport (see this explainer for why I use Dulles instead of National) occurred in 2010, and the coolest was 1976.
For those of you who live in/around D.C. and would like to see a chart for National Airport instead of Dulles, here it is:
DCA is a few degrees warmer on the whole than IAD, but the patterns are roughly the same.
It's been downright pleasant in Chicago, with average summertime temperatures sitting just under the average of 71.6°F. After a couple of years of seemingly-unrelenting heat, it's a welcome sight.
Dallas is by far the warmest of the 10 cities I looked at for this post, with an average seasonal temperature of 84.1°F through August 13. The average at Love Field since the station began taking measurements in 1940 is 84.7°F, putting this year just a hair below average, much like we've seen with the other cities surveyed.
(Note for Dallasites: I used Love Field instead of DFW because Love has a longer record (1940) than DFW, which starts in the mid 1970s).
I threw in Mobile, Alabama because I spent five years there and it sits on the northern Gulf Coast, famous for its gross, mold-inducing weather. This summer in Mobile is well below average, with the season's temp so far this year sitting just a little below 80°F. The City of Six Flags normally sees an average summer temperature of 81.3°F. It looks like 2014 is on track to hold the seventh coolest summer ever recorded at Mobile Regional Airport since records began in 1948. The city's hottest summer on record was 2011, which was a downright awful year for Alabama.
Over on the West Coast, we'll start with the warmer-than-average summer seen in Los Angeles so far this year. The city is experiencing one of its warmest summers on record, but it's still a far cry from 1959, which was Los Angeles' hottest summer on record.
In a change from last month's post on summertime temperatures, the warm weather in San Francisco over the past couple of weeks actually managed to eek out 1958 as the city's hottest summer on record. This can (and likely will) change over the next two weeks, but if 2014 doesn't end as San Francisco's hottest summer ever, it'll be darn close.
Portland, Oregon also looks poised to set a record as the all-time hottest summer since the airport began taking observations in 1938. This season's average temperature comes in almost four degrees higher than the devilish summertime average of 66.6°F.
As of August 13, Seattle actually ties last year as having the warmest summer ever recorded at Sea-Tac Airport. The fact that many residences in the city aren't equipped with air conditioning is a testament to the fact that it normally doesn't normally get this warm in Seattle — 2014 and 2013* both sit nearly four degrees warmer than average.
*Seattle Weather Blog informed me after posting this article that the sensor at the airport in Seattle was faulty last year, providing temp. readings higher than they really were. The NWS replaced the sensor this past March. In light of this, take 2013's summer measurements with a grain of salt.
So far, it still looks like everyone who doesn't live along the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico will end the summer on a comfortable note. It's a seasonable year. This is what summer is supposed to feel like. Enjoy it, because winter is coming, and with winter comes three months of non-stop complaining.
[Top image by James Jardine via Flickr / all charts by the author | Edited at 457PM EDT to add a temperature chart for National Airport in D.C.]