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A look back at some of the hottest Independence Days

The trend is for warming temperatures during the month of July which may mean hotter July 4th holidays.
The trend is for warming temperatures during the month of July which may mean hotter July 4th holidays.(Climate Central)
Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 9:11 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - This weekend’s 90º+ temperatures on July 4th certainly won’t be an exception. In fact, looking back, we’ve seen more and more hotter than average Independence Days in the past few years. This will be the third year in a row we have seen 90° highs leading up to the July 4th holiday. In fact, this is the third year in a row we have also had a high of 93° on July 3rd in Roanoke.

Our average high this time of year is around 87º for Roanoke and Lynchburg, slightly cooler in the mountains. However, we have certainly had our fair share of hot Independence Days. Here’s a look back at a few memorable ones.

HOTTEST: 99° | JULY 4, 1999

A look at some of our more recent hot spells include the record hot July 1999, when Roanoke recorded 20 days of 90+ high temperatures, including two 100º days following the 99º on July 4th, which still stands as the hottest Independence Day on record.

RECENT HOTTEST: 97° | JULY 4, 2012

Locals will certainly remember the June/July 2012 heatwave that was topped off by a record-setting wind storm known as a Derecho. The hottest days were at the end of June where we hit 100°+ for several days in a row.

DROUGHT YEAR: 96° | JULY 4, 2002

In 2002, Virginia experienced a record-setting drought that was followed in 2003 by record-setting rainfall. Go figure. During the drought year, numerous record highs were set, including a high of 96° on July 4th and 5th.

A WARMING CLIMATE

According to Climate Central, an independent organization of climate scientists, over the past year, there were 49+ all-time record highs (according to NCEI) across the U.S., compared with just 2 record lows.

July is also getting warmer across the United States. Of the 242 cities the scientists analyzed, 70% (170) recorded an increase of at least 1℉ in average temperatures since 1970, with 44% (106) registering an increase of 2℉ or more. The greatest increases are concentrated in the western United States.

In a warming climate, what appear to be small increases in average temperature can lead to big increases in extremes. Record high temperatures have been outpacing record lows at an increasing rate across the U.S.

For the rest of the summer, temperatures are expected to be hotter than normal for much of the country, and scientists are confident that 2020 will be among the hottest years globally—even vying with 2016 for the hottest year ever recorded.

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