Michigan’s hottest week – in 1936

July 11th, 2013 at 10:28 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

The picture is people trying to sleep outside (instead of their non-air-conditioned homes) on the lawn at the Nebraska State Capitol grounds in Lincoln in July 1936. The hottest day that month in Lincoln had a high of 115° and a low of 91° (pic. courtesy of the Neb. Historical Society). The most intense heat wave in the U.S. came in July 1936. Over 5,000 people died because of heat that summer, and that figure is probably too low. Grand Rapids reached 100 degrees 12 times in the 1930s and we’ve only hit 100 three times since 1964.  In 1936, Grand Rapids had high temperatures on July 8-14 of 101°, 101°, 102°, 99°, 106°, 108° and 102°. Those seven high temperatures still stand as daily records 77 years later.  The hottest week of 2012, July 1 thru the 7, had an average high temperature of 98.0.  The hot week of July 8-14, 1936 had an average high temperature of 102.7, or nearly five degrees hotter!  Other Michigan all time records that still stand today from July 12-13, 1936 include 112° at Mio (all-time state record), 111° at Newaygo and Saginaw, 109° at Hastings and Kalamazoo, 108° at Alma, Greenville, Gull Lake, Vanderbilt and Flint, 107° at Three Rivers, Hillsdale, Houghton Lake and West Branch, 106° at Allegan, Charlotte, Higgins Lake, Lake City and Onaway, 105° at Traverse City, Jackson and Owosso, 104° at Battle Creek, Hart, Cadillac, Ironwood, Alpena and Pontiac, 103° at Big Rapids, Munising, Newberry and Stambaugh and 99° at Grand Marais. The states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and New Jersey also experienced all-time state record highs temperatures in the heat wave of 1936. The provinces of Ontario and Manitoba also set still-standing record all-time highs. Here’s more from the Detroit NWS, and the Detroit News.

35 Responses to “Michigan’s hottest week – in 1936”

  1. Travis (Oakland County) says:

    That was hot! Probably contributed in large part to the dust bowl and horrible national drought. But I still think the 2003 heat wave in Europe easily beat this one. Estimates for that were 35,000-70,000 deaths.

    Many parts of the US saw similar or hotter temperatures to 1936 just last summer. July 2012 was the hottest month ever recorded. And 7 out of the 10 hottest summers on record have occurred since 2001.

    It’s also interesting that 1936 wasn’t even a warm year overall. Extremely cold winter.

    1. DF (SE Mich) says:

      Kind of hard to compare years when the world population was more than 3 times as large by 2003.

      This is actually a good thing if we are going to compare deaths. Cold kills way more. The UK had 24,000 deaths in the winter of 2012 alone… which wasn’t even cold relative to other years.

      1. Travis (Oakland County) says:

        Definitely a good thing less people died. I was just talking in terms of global heat wave significance.

        But to your point, with all the AC and modern convenience Europe had in 2003, 35,000-70,000 deaths due to heat is simply unacceptable. They had basically zero cooling technology back in 1936 other than a fan.

        1. DF (SE Mich) says:

          They need more coal plants over there to keep the AC on ;)
          Kidding, kidding.

        2. Bill Steffen says:

          In a heat wave you need:

          1) A forecast that will allow preparation, time to make a plan.
          2) Knowledge on what to do in a heat wave and the signs of heat stress.
          3) People need to care for each other. In the Chicago heat wave of 2005, there were many deaths among whites and blacks, but very few among Hispanics and Asians. The difference was that Hispanics and Asians took care of each other. If they knew an elderly person in the neighborhood, they got them a fan or moved them to a cooler place. There was less variation by income than you might expect. Many of the fatalities were to middle class individuals.

    2. whatBillwantstosaybutcant says:

      Now I know what DF stands for.

  2. Ellen says:

    With the extreme heat out west, the fires killing the vegetation and trees, do you figure that we may see another dust bowl developing?

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      I doubt it? Forest fire burn areas re-vegetate rather quickly – even if it’s just grass (I saw this with the Duck Lake Fire in the UP); and theoretically, more farmers are utilizing land conservation practices. More land is irrigated, too. The crop yields might be poor…but no dust bowls.

    2. Mike M. says:

      The drought has been steadily shrinking for the last year…


    3. Bill Steffen says:

      The center of the dry area is farther west than in the mid 1930s. We now have a lot more irrigated crops in the Plains. The pine bark beetle has destroyed millions of trees out West and the dead trees provide a lot of fuel for fires. Most Western fires are started by either lightning or man (arson or carelessness).

  3. Dan says:

    1936 was the warmest on record for Michigan. 36 states recorded record heat for July of 2012. Interesting to note. How does it rank globally?

    1. Travis (Oakland County) says:

      2012 was the hottest year on record for the US, and the Earth’s 8th hottest on record.

      The year 1936 is not close to any records. In fact, I think it may have ended up below average globally.

      1. Bill Steffen says:

        Here’s summer 1936: http://www.isws.illinois.edu/wsp/images_climate/1936_temp.gif Look at how the heat of 1936 stands out (and how recent decades don’t) in continuous weather stations with little urbanization: http://stevengoddard.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/screenhunter_140-feb-25-07-20.jpg And the cold in January: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cb/Winter_1936_US_Temperature.gif/300px-Winter_1936_US_Temperature.gif and http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/08/dear-noaa-and-seth-which-1930s-were-you-referring-to-when-you-say-july-is-the-record-warmest/

        Keep in mind we did not have satellites and that global temperature was only measured accurately over 10-15% of the globe…not over the oceans or the Poles.

    2. DF (SE Mich) says:

      1936 and 2012 global temperature sets were measured complete different, not comparable.

      1. Travis (Oakland County) says:

        huh? So you don’t believe in any recorded temps before when?

        1. Bill Steffen says:

          It’s YOU GUYS who don’t believe in recorded temperatures. The alarmists have “adjusted” the past temperatures to make them look cooler and “adjusted” the present temperatures by selectively choosing weather stations (no temperatures from Bolivia in the temperature record? Huh?)

        2. Travis (Oakland County) says:

          Ah, the good ol’ temperature reliability argument. And who is “you guys” by the way?

          Any so-called adjustments have been tiny and do not make a material difference. Here is raw data versus adjustments:


          Further, independent studies using different software, different methods, and different data sets yield very similar results. It really doesn’t matter who measures the data and how they do it. What matters ultimately is the trend in the data that will still always be there no matter if methods have changed:


          As for Bill’s argument about the NWS selectively “choosing” stations, NOAA put out a rebuttal piece in which all the stations under scrutiny were thrown out, and it basically made zero difference in the long-term data (seen on page 3):


        3. Bill Steffen says:

          First, rural stations and those that have had no or little urbanization show little change in temperature. This is from the State Climatologist of California: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/goodridge_1996_ca-uhi_county.jpg

          On the “adjusted” temperatures: http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/data-tampering-at-ushcngiss/

          Global temperatures warmed from 1980 to 2002 as the AMO and PDO were both in the warm phase. The PDO turned cold, and global temperatures stopped warming: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/Fig.C.gif Global temperatures have been flat since 2002 and everyone agrees with that, even James Hansen.

          In Grand Rapids, the average temperature for the 1930s was 49.7 – the average temperature for the 2000s was 48.7.

        4. DF (SE Mich) says:

          Read what I typed (well don’t because I can’t type, “completely” I meant)…

          I absolutely do not believe any global temperature stat before 1979. Point location comparisons as Bill has mentioned in this post I have no problem with.

        5. Dan says:

          Travis you do not see the point! You only want to see the warmth, nothing else! However, in order to give your misleading points any credibility, you would need thousands of years, computer model data and an incredible amount of time!
          It is not a cut and dried issue as you are wanting it to be!
          Can you just admit that you are wrong?

        6. Jordan (Twin Lake) says:

          Dan is so slow he couldn’t catch the short bus to school!

        7. Dan says:

          Name calling huh? Warm weather Jordan is that all you have? You must not have any substance or data or would’ve provided it!

  4. Dan says:

    Perfect day outside! Humidity is lower and temp is perfect!

  5. INDY says:

    Hey Travis do u work 3rd shift??? Summer best weather is now get outside and KISStheBRICKS…..STAY TUNED INDYY………

  6. Judy says:

    Was so nice having cooler temps this morning….opened some windows and put a fan in a doorway to circulate the cooler fresh air.

  7. kevin. w says:

    Just looking at some of the data toward fall and early winter is that November and December look very interesting according to some models…especially the JMA model which has done well with longer range predictions, but its a long range outlook so will see.

  8. Dan says:

    Kevin can you, will you share some that info? What is it showing? I realize it is very early and a lot can change before Winter!

  9. Gump says:

    I’m glad we aren’t getting any of that heat this year. I personally would be happy if it never broke 90 this summer.

    1. Mark (East Lansing) says:


    2. Brian(Grandville) says:

      Unfortunately next week may be not very enjoyable for some of us. That’s all I gotta say about that.

    1. michael g (SE GR) says:

      The decline in tornadoes this year is obviously due to climate change, just as the unusually high number of tornadoes in 2008 was.

      1. Mike M. says:

        Heh. That’s the flaw in trying to paint ALL weather events as “climate change.” Sooner or later Mother Nature pulls your underwear up over your head.

        1. Brian(Grandville) says:

          LOL!!! Yes it sure dose.

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