September 1, 2011

Hot days, broken record: Wichita will likely break mark for 100-degree days today

When the temperature hits 100 today — and that's a given, local meteorologists say — it'll become official: There's never been a summer like this in Wichita.

When the temperature hits 100 today — and that's a given, local meteorologists say — it'll become official: There's never been a summer like this in Wichita.

Today's triple digits will hoist the total of 100-degree days this year to 51, breaking a 75-year-old record.

Perhaps the tip-off that this summer would be unlike any other came on May 9, when Wichita set a record for earliest 100-degree day ever.

"Little did we know," said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

That was the only triple-digit day in May, but then 100s began arriving in bunches: 11 in June, 24 in July and 14 in August.

The 24 in July tied 1980 for the most 100s in July.

The record is arriving in style: Wednesday's high of 108 broke the record for Aug. 31 of 107 set in 1990.

Today's forecast calls for a high of about 107, which would tie the record for Sept. 1, also set in 1990.

The weather pattern that broiled Wichita and much of the Great Plains with record-breaking heat wasn't anything unusual, Lawson said. A ridge of high pressure set up over the Rockies and the southern Plains — and just stayed there.

This one set up a little earlier than usual, he said, and proved difficult to dislodge.

But what really sent the temperatures soaring was the dry winter and spring for most of the southern Plains. Typically, Lawson said, a great deal of solar energy is expended evaporating moisture that has accumulated in ponds and soil.

With so little rain and snow falling this winter and spring, that solar energy warmed the atmosphere instead. Temperatures that would have topped out in the 90s surged above 100, he said.

After grumbling about the relentless heat for weeks, many Wichitans adopted a philosophical tone as the 100s began to add up.

They began to root for the record to be broken.

"I figure as miserable as this summer has been, it might as well be part of the records," Marlene Nordman Coker said on Facebook.

Leslie Chaffin agreed, saying on Facebook that it "would be a shame to be so close and not set it this year."

With the record arriving today, folks around town have already begun planning via Facebook and Twitter how they'll commemorate it.

Some were debating what flavor of snow cone to choose.

Julie Bales Buresh wants to fry an omelet on the sidewalk.

Steve Nelson plans to buy an Oreo Blizzard.

Becky Nordyke intends to stay inside —"with the A.C. turned to 73," she wrote on Twitter.

Walker Schwartz may have the best idea of all: he's looking at buying plane tickets to Minnesota.

Yet Schwartz only has to wait a couple of days for much cooler temperatures to reach Wichita.

After another dose or two of triple digits for the region on Friday and Saturday, temperatures should dip dramatically the rest of Labor Day weekend.

Highs on Sunday and Monday may barely nudge into the 80s, forecasters say. That would be a plunge of nearly 20 degrees from Saturday.

Lows will dip into the 50s — the first time that's happened in more than three months.

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