Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer of 1954

The temperatures in the Ozarks have been pretty hot this summer but probably not much more so, if any, than normal. In fact, July has so far, as of the 22nd, probably not been quite as hot as usual. At least, I know that in Springfield the month of June had more really hot days than July has so far, and that is the opposite of what we normally expect in the region. The high temperature thus far in Springfield this year has been 96 degrees recorded on June 22, again on June 23, and finally matched yesterday (July 21). June also had two other days with a high temperature of 95 degrees and one day with a high temperature of 94 degrees. By contrast, the hottest Springfield temperature in July before yesterday was 93 recorded on the 18th. The high temperature so far this year in both Rolla and Joplin, 96 and 98 respectively, also occurred in June, on the 22nd. I should add, however, that the forecast for the next couple of days calls for rising temperatures; so we’re not out of the woods yet as far as extremely hot July temperatures are concerned.
My overall point, though, is that so far the summer of 2016 has not been an extremely hot one. At least not when you compare it to the hottest summer on record, which was 1954. During that summer, Springfield had thirteen days on which the thermometer reached triple digits. Joplin, located seventy miles to the west and nearer the Great Plains, where temperatures are almost always somewhat hotter than they are in the Ozarks, recorded an astounding thirty-nine days on which the temperature topped 100. Eighteen of those days happened in July, including twelve straight days from July 11 through July 21. During that span, the temperature reached 114 on July 14, the hottest temperature on record for Joplin. Springfield had an all-time record high of 113 the same day. Rolla topped out on July 14 at 109 or 113 (depending on the source), and the mercury there reached triple digits a total of ten times during the summer of 1954.
I vaguely recall the intense heat of the summer of 1954, when I would have been seven years old. Actually, I don't recall the specific year. I only recall that during a couple of the summers of my childhood, when I was growing up in the Springfield area, it was extremely hot. It has been only during my adulthood, after I read or was told that 1953 and 1954 were unusually hot summers, that I've concluded those must have been the years I remember as being very hot. We didn't have air conditioning, either, back in those days, but somehow the heat didn't bother me much. I'd hate to be without air conditioning this summer, even though it hasn’t been one of the hottest summers on record thus far. I think it would bother me a lot, but, of course, I'm not seven anymore. Temperature extremes don't seem to bother kids the way they do adults, especially older adults like me. At least they didn't bother me and my childhood friends when we had important things to do like playing baseball or going fishing.
I should probably add that, by pointing out that the hottest summer in the Ozarks occurred over sixty years ago, I am not trying to deny that the earth is getting warmer overall. The trend of year-round temperatures for the whole globe is definitely upward. Of the sixteen hottest years on record for worldwide average temperature, all but one of them have occurred since 2001. So, global warming is definitely real.
It’s just that the summer of 1954 happened to be abnormally hot in this little part of the world.


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