1936 North American heat wave

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Summer (June–August) 1936 average temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit. Record warmest and coldest is based on a 112-year period of records (1895–2006).[1]

The 1936 North American heat wave was one of the most severe heat waves in the modern history of North America. It took place in the middle of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930s and caused catastrophic human suffering and an enormous economic toll. The death toll exceeded 5,000, and huge numbers of crops were destroyed by the heat and lack of moisture. Many state and city record high temperatures set during the 1936 heat wave stood until the summer 2012 North American heat wave.[2][3] Many more endure to this day; as of 2022, 13 state record high temperatures were set in 1936. The 1936 heat wave followed one of the coldest winters on record.

June 1936[edit]

Summer (June–August) 1936 precipitation, in inches. Record wettest and driest is based on a 112-year period of records (from 1895 until 2006).

High temperatures began briefly in the Northeast from June 1 to 3. On June 3, Allentown, Pennsylvania had a high of 95 °F (35 °C) (20 °F (11 °C) above the average) while New York City had a high of 90 °F (32 °C).[4][5] Baltimore, Maryland had a high of 96 °F (36 °C), just below the daily record high set in 1925.[6] As the month went on, heat began to build in the Rocky Mountains and over the Southeast.

Western United States[edit]

Salt Lake City, Utah started off with below average temperatures but would see record highs of 101 °F (38 °C) on both June 20 and 22.[7] Grand Junction, Colorado saw five days above 100 °F (38 °C) with record highs set from June 18 through 20.[8] Areas east of the Rockies in Colorado varied greatly, with Pueblo seeing one day above 100 °F (38 °C) (June 18) while Lamar saw eleven consecutive days with highs above 100 °F (38 °C).[9] Cheyenne, Wyoming (with typical highs averaging 75 °F (24 °C)) saw highs averaging 90 °F (32 °C) with a record 95 °F (35 °C) high for June 18. In Ashton, Idaho, a record high for the month of June was set on June 27 at 98 °F (37 °C).[10]

Southeast and Midwest[edit]

In the South, the heat started in the Gulf Coast states with Atlanta, Georgia seeing low to mid-90's in the early part of the month followed by Birmingham, Alabama seeing a string of mid-90 °F (32 °C) highs from June 6 through 10.[11][12] Following this, intense heat began to build in the region by mid-month. From June 16 through 19, highs were in the upper 90's to near 100 °F (38 °C) in Birmingham.[12] In a similar time frame, Huntsville, Alabama saw a string of five days above 100 °F (38 °C) with only one day not setting a new daily record high.[13] In Mississippi, Jackson and Meridian both saw highs in the upper 90's while Greenville and Tupelo saw highs in the 100's.[14][15] For some areas, June 17 was the hottest day of the month with Atlanta setting a daily record high of 102 °F (39 °C) and Evansville, Indiana hitting 100 °F (38 °C) .[11][16]

On June 19, as the heat began to spread northward, multiple areas in the Midwest saw record daily highs, including St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and Topeka, Kansas.

On June 20, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri all set all-time, monthly record highs: Corning, AR hit 113 °F (45 °C), Dodson, Louisiana hit 110 °F (43 °C), Greenwood, Mississippi hit 111 °F (44 °C), and Doniphan, Missouri hit 112 °F (44 °C).[17] Dozens of other cities had daily record high temperatures, including Shreveport, Louisiana (104 °F (40 °C)), Little Rock, Arkansas (105 °F (41 °C)), and Memphis, Tennessee (103 °F (39 °C)). The heat also began to spread northward, with St. Louis and Kansas City, MO also seeing daily high records.

On June 26, Nebraska set a new monthly record high as it hit 114 °F (46 °C) in Franklin.

On June 29, it was 110 °F (43 °C) in both Saint John, Kentucky and Etowah, Tennessee and 111 °F (44 °C) in Seymore, Indiana; these temperatures set new monthly record highs for each state.[17] This day was particularly brutal, with many areas across the South and Midwest reporting record highs for the month. Springfield, Illinois hit 103 °F (39 °C) falling just short of the 104 °F (40 °C) record set in 1934. Galesburg, Illinois hit 102 °F (39 °C) and Lexington, Kentucky hit 104 °F (40 °C) which remains their hottest temperature ever recorded in June.

July 1936[edit]

July started off relatively mild in many areas, with many areas in the Midwest seeing highs in the upper-80's to low-90's. However, areas in the Central Great Plains saw temperature's in the 100's with Topeka, KS, Omaha, NE and other locations seeing daily record highs. On Independence Day, July 4, this all quickly changed.

Heat Dome Forms Over Midwest[edit]

On July 4, multiple areas centered around the Central Midwest saw temperatures spike into the 100's. Peoria, Illinois reached 106F, Sioux City, Iowa hit 111F (their highest temperature on record), Des Moines, Iowa hit 109F (falling one degree short of the record), Springfield, Illinois hit 105F, and Kansas City, Missouri hit 108F. All these areas saw their hottest Independence Day on record. That night, temperatures would only fall into the 70's.[18][19][20]

On July 5, the heat persisted in these areas while spreading to others. Areas in Eastern Iowa had highs in the low to mid 100's, with Burlington, Iowa hitting 108 for the second day in a row. In Bismarck, North Dakota, the temperature hit 106F and in Aberdeen, South Dakota, it hit 108F.[21]

On July 6, Steele, North Dakota hit 121F, the highest temperature ever recorded in North Dakota. this occurred 5 months after the record low of -60F was set in the state. Fargo and Bismarck hit 114F respectively. In Moorhead, Minnesota, the record high of 113F was also set. The heat continued to spread, with Rockford, Illinois hitting 102F, Minneapolis, MN and Grand Forks, ND hitting 104F respectively.[22]

On July 7, the heat spread to the Great Lakes area. Milwaukee, WI hit 98F, Madison, Wisconsin hit 102F, Green Bay, Wisconsin hit 103F, Duluth, Minnesota hit 100F, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, MI hit 101F.[23][24][25][26] The heat also spread south, with Evansville, IN hitting 106F, and Lexington, Kentucky hitting 101F.

On July 8, heat began to creep back into the Northeastern United States, with some areas having highs in the 80's and 90's. Elsewhere the heat dome expanded more with Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, Indiana hitting 104F respectively. South Bend, hit 106F (their second day above 100), and Louisville, Kentucky hit 103F. Flint, Michigan hit 108F, breaking the record.[27]

On July 9, temperature's spiked, with many all-time record highs being set in both the Great Lakes and Northeast United States. The recap of temperatures are as follows for July 9th.

Rockford, IL: 101°[22]

Pittsburgh, PA: 101°

Syracuse, NY: 102°

Rochester, NY: 102°

Detroit, MI: 102°[28]

Philadelphia, PA: 103°

Albany, NY: 103°[29]

Baltimore, MD: 103°

Scranton, PA: 103°

Washington DC: 104°

Johnstown, PA: 104°

Columbus, OH: 105°

Warren, OH: 105°

Williamsport, PA: 106°

Trenton, NJ: 106°

Central Park, New York City: 106°

On July 10, the heat peaked in Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, with some areas setting all-time record highs in parts of the South and most of the Midwest. The recap is as follows.

Atlanta, GA: 100°

Pittsburgh PA: 101°

Detroit, MI: 102°[28]

Grand Rapids, MI: 102°[26]

Central Park, New York City: 102°[5]

Youngstown, OH: 103°

Philadelphia, PA: 104°

Richmond, VA: 105°

Washington DC: 105°

Lynchburg, VA: 106°

Rockford, IL: 106°[22]

Bowling Green, KY: 106°

St. Cloud, MN: 106°[30]

Baltimore, MD: 107°

Lexington, KY: 108°

Xenia, OH: 108°

Cumberland & Frederick, MD: 109°

Runyon, NJ: 110°

Phoenixville, PA: 111°

Martinsburg, WV: 112°

Aberdeen, SD: 114°

On July 11, the heat began subsided in the Northeast, though highs were still in the 90's. The heat temporarily stopped spreading but was still heavily impacting areas with Bismarck, ND recording a low of only 83F.

On July 13, the heat spread south through the Great Plains, with Wichita, Kansas reporting a high of 101F, Fort Smith, Arkansas hitting 106F, Tulsa, Oklahoma hitting 107F, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma hitting 101F. Elsewhere, temperatures began to significantly rise with multiple areas hitting above 110F. The recap is as follows.

Columbus, OH: 101°

Detroit, MI: 102°[28]

Green Bay, WI: 104°[24]

Minneapolis, MN: 105°[30]

Alpena, MI: 106°

Madison, WI: 106°[23]

Duluth, MN: 106°[25]

St. Cloud, MN: 107°[30]

Decatur, IL: 108°[18]

Grand Rapids, MI: 108°[26]

Evansville, IN: 108°

Kalamazoo, MI: 109°[26]

Rockford, IL: 110°[22]

Saginaw, MI: 111°[28]

Eau Claire, WI: 111°[31]

Waterloo, IA: 112°[21]

Mt. Vernon, IL: 112°[18]

Mio, MI: 112°

Henderson, KY: 113°

Wisconsin Dells, WI: 114°

July 14 was the peak day of the heat wave for most areas with countless record-breaking temperatures broken across many areas. The records are as follows.

Detroit, MI: 104° (105° on July 24, 1934)

Springfield, MO: 104° (113° in 1954)

Indianapolis, IN: 106° (tied July 22, 1901 and July 21, 1934)[32]

Columbus, OH: 106° (tied July 21, 1934)

Cincinnati, OH: 106° (tied July 24, 1934)

Madison, WI: 107°[23]

Louisville, KY: 107°

Kalamazoo, MI: 108°[26]

Minneapolis, MN: 108°[30]

Rochester, MN: 108°

Xenia, OH: 108°

St. Louis, MO: 108° (115° in 1954)

Lima, OH: 109°

Cedar Rapids, IA: 109°[18]

Dubuque, IA: 110°

Terre Haute, IN: 110°

Springfield, IL: 110° (112° in 1954)[18]

Decatur, IL: 110° (113° in 1954)[18]

Moline, IL: 111°[18]

Burlington, IA: 111°[18]

Rockford, IL: 112°[22]

Waterloo, IA: 112°[18]

Palestine, IL: 112° (114° in 1954)[18]

Mt. Vernon, IL: 114°[18]

Collegeville, IN: 116°

On July 15, temperatures finally began to decline over most areas while other isolated areas still saw heat still increase. Missouri hit an all-time high of 115F in Clinton, Missouri. Peoria, IL hit 113F and Quincy hit 114F, setting all-time records for those cities.[18] In Iowa, many cities tied the records set the previous day. However, in the Great Plains temperatures continued to rise as a new heat wave began to develop.

Heat Persists over the Great Plains[edit]

Although heat in the Midwest had begun to subside, heat had been building in the Great Plains over that period. It began on July 13 when there was a noticeable increase in temperatures but began to peak on July 14.

On July 14, the temperature climbed to 107F in Lincoln, NE after having 5 days of temperature's in the low 100's, though that night it would be the first time the temperature fell below 80F in a week. Norfolk, NE hit 105F and Omaha, NE hit 109F. Further south, Topeka, KS hit 108F, and Kansas City, MO hit 109F. In Tulsa, OK, temperatures had been climbing the past couple days and hit 110F this day. This heat would persist into the next day before temperatures would fall noticeably on the 16th over the Central Great Plains.

On July 17, temperatures once again began to rise. Nebraska set a record high of 118F in Hartington, NE. Sioux City, SD and Sioux Falls, IA also set record highs of 110F.[20] In Grand Island, NE it was 114F, falling 2 degrees short of the record in 1934, while Hastings, NE would set a record of 115F. It was also 110F in Fort Smith, AR.

On July 18, the heat would peak. Kansas and Oklahoma set record highs of 121F in Fredonia and 120F in Alva, respectively. Wichita, KS hit 112F, Salina, KS hit 116F, 110F in Topeka, KS, and 113F in Tulsa, OK (a record high for July). On July 19, Oklahoma's record would be tied in Altus.

Latter part of July[edit]

For many areas, temperatures would be relatively lower for the last part of the month. Most areas saw highs fall below 100F on July 20 and 21 for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. However, temperatures would rise back into the 100's over the Great Plains after this, though generally wouldn't be as high as earlier in the month. The notable exception would be in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

On July 24, Grand Island, NE broke their record high with a high 117F. Hastings, NE also set a new all-time high of 116F. Both Kansas and Nebraska tied their all-time record highs in Alton and Minden, respectively just days after they were set.

On July 25, the temperature rose to 115F in Lincoln, NE (a record high for the city) but would only fall to 91F that night. Outside of the Desert Southwest, this is one of the highest low temperatures ever recorded in the US. Omaha, NE also set a record high of 114F, though had a low of 83F. On the previous day Grand Island, NE broke their record with a high 117F. Des Moines, IA would set their record high of 110F this day as well.[21] Iowa set their record high of 117F in Atlantic and Logan.

August 1936 and afterwards[edit]

August was the warmest month on record for five states. Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana also set all-time high records. Many experienced long stretches of daily maximum temperatures 100 °F (38 °C) or warmer. Drought conditions worsened in some locations. Other states were only slightly warmer than average.

The heat wave and drought largely ended in September, although many states were still drier and warmer than average. Many farmers' summer harvests were destroyed. Grounds and lawns remained parched. Seasonable temperatures returned in the autumn.

Summer 1936 remained the warmest summer on record in the USA (since official records begin in 1895), until 2021.[33] However February 1936 was the coldest February on record, and 5 of the 12 months were below average, leaving the full year 1936 at just above the average.


As many as 5,000 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States,[3][34] and 780 direct and 400 indirect deaths in Canada.[35] Almost 5,000 people suffered from heat stroke and heat exhaustion, particularly the elderly. Unlike today, air conditioning was in the early stages of development and was therefore absent from houses and commercial buildings. Many of the deaths occurred in high-population-density areas of Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Toronto, and other urban areas. Farmers across the continent saw crop failure, causing corn and wheat prices to rise quickly. Droughts and heat waves were common in the 1930s. The 1930s (the Dust Bowl years) are remembered as the driest and warmest decade for the United States, and the summer of 1936 featured the most widespread and destructive heat wave to occur in the Americas in centuries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The July 1936 Heat Wave". National Weather Service. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Brutal July heat a new U.S. record". Cable News Network. August 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-08. The average temperature across the Lower 48 was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported. That edged out the previous high mark, set in 1936, by two-tenths of a degree, NOAA said.
  3. ^ a b Cantor, George (4 August 1996). "Detroit's killer heat wave of 1936". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2012-06-22. This one was different, though, not only in the number it killed but in the very intensity of the heat. Records for high temperatures set during that summer still stand in 15 states, including Michigan. In Kansas and North Dakota, it reached 121 degrees, marks surpassed in this country only in the deserts of the Southwest.
  4. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate PHI". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  5. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate OKX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  6. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate LWX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  7. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate SLC". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  8. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate GJT". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  9. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate PUB". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  10. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate PIH". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  11. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate FFC". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  12. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate BMX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  13. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate HUN". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  14. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate JAN". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  15. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate MEG". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  16. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate PAH". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  17. ^ a b "North America's Most Intense Heat Wave: July and August 1936". www.wunderground.com. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate ILX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  19. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate DMX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  20. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate FSD". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  21. ^ a b c US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate DVN". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  22. ^ a b c d e US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate LOT". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  23. ^ a b c US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate MKV". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  24. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate GRB". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  25. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate DLH". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  26. ^ a b c d e US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate GRR". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  27. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate IWX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  28. ^ a b c d US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate DTX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  29. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate ALY". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  30. ^ a b c d US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate MPX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  31. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate ARX". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  32. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Climate IND". www.weather.gov. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  33. ^ The U.S. just had its hottest summer on record, NBC News, September 9, 2021
  34. ^ "The Heatwave of July 1936". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  35. ^ Phillips, David. "Heat Wave". The Canadian Encyclopedia. The Historica-Dominion Institute. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2012.

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