18th Conference on Applied Climatology


Impacts of the 1954 Heat Wave

Nancy E. Westcott, Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL; and K. Grady

The highest recorded temperature in Illinois, 117 F, occurred on July 14th, 1954 in East St. Louis, IL. This occurred in the midst of a widespread, long-lasting heat wave covering significant parts of 11 states: from eastern Colorado through Kansas, Oklahoma, part of Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, southern Illinois, and extending to the southeast to western Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and parts of the Carolinas. According to Climate Division data, this ranked at one of the top 5 extended periods of heat in these states since 1895. At the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, 100F temperatures were observed on 22 days from the last week in June through the first week of September 1954. The average number of 100 F days is three at this site and is based on the period of record, 1949 2008. Temperatures above 95F occurred on 51 days (normal 14 days) and above 90F on 79 days (normal 37 days). Similarly, at Olathe, KS (near Kansas City, MO), there were 31 days of at least 100F (normal 5 days), 52 days with temperatures of 95 F or more (normal, 17 days), and 80 days with temperatures of 90F or more (normal 41 days). The Olathe normals are based on the 1891-2008 period. Only 1913, 1918, 1934, and 1936 had more 100F days at Olathe. In the central Midwest, such widespread extended periods of extreme temperatures have not been observed since the 1950s.

This research examines the impacts felt in the Illinois, Missouri and Kansas region, as well as the responses to the extreme temperatures, as determined from newspaper articles in St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Kansas City Star. County crop yields from USDA National Agricultural Statistical Services are also examined. Impacts on human health and well-being, water resources, utilities, agriculture and commerce are detailed, as well as response to those impacts.

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (104K)

Recorded presentation

Session 5B, Topics in Applied Climatology II
Tuesday, 19 January 2010, 1:30 PM-3:00 PM, B212

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