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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published August 11 2012

Weather Talk: Current drought and heat doesn’t compare to 1930s

Headlines were made across the country last week with the announcement that this July is now the hottest month on record. This startling fact comes from a comparison of July temperatures across the United States dating back to 1895.

Analysts immediately began to compare the current drought and heat wave with the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. But there is no comparison. July got the record for temperature based largely on the ongoing trend of increasing nighttime low temperatures. This, when coupled with a very hot and dry July, led to the record.

But conditions were far worse in the Dust Bowl. Daytime temperatures were hotter, and the drought covered a much larger region. Further, the Dust Bowl lasted 12 years, compounding all the effects.

The drought and heat waves of 2012 are a big deal, and if this weather continues for a few more years, the comparison to the 1930s will be reasonable. But for now, such a comparison is a lot of hot air.

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