It is not exactly breaking news to say that Texas gets hot in the summer. So far in June, though, South Texas has gone from its usual “melt into a puddle of sweat and sunscreen” temperatures and moved all the way over to “like walking on the surface of the friggin’ sun.” On Friday, the temperature in Brownsville clocked in at a staggering 104 degrees, the hottest June temperature the city since at least 1878, when they started keeping records of such miserable things. (The all-time high of 106, according to to Weather.com, was set back in 1984—in what sounds like an extremely unpleasant late March.)
Temperatures were even higher—although perhaps not record-breaking—across South Texas. McAllen hit 106, Laredo 109. The heat index (or “feels like” temperature) in Brownsville, though, was even more shocking, with a downright absurd, albeit unofficial figure of 128 degrees. How hot is that? It’s so hot that the National Weather Service maps don’t even have a color on their charts to represent it:
The highest heat index ("feels like") temperature was so high on Friday in some parts of the #RGV that is was literally off the chart (color scale). Based on 5-minute observations, unofficial peak heat index reached 128(!) at Brownsville at 320 PM, and 124 at Harlingen. Wow. pic.twitter.com/RE9TZFcf4A— NWS Brownsville (@NWSBrownsville) June 8, 2019
Look at that map. It looks like all of the color walked out the door in Brownsville, began feeling their skin crackle and their faces melt like the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and thought, “Nope, I don’t need to go anywhere today after all,” and went right back inside, where they curled into a cozy ball next to their fan or air conditioning vents. (Of course, not all of Texas is sweltering in precisely the same way. On Sunday—while McAllen was sweating it out at 104 degrees—Amarillo was faced with a high of 61.)
How hot has it been in South Texas? Last week, if you wanted an escape from the stifling heat, you could have had a nice time going to Death Valley.
Death Valley did not get its name for its pleasant, low-key temperature. While it’s true that there are times of the year when Death Valley isn’t so bad—the average March temperature is an innocuous 82 degrees—by the summertime, it’s earning that name. The average June temp is 110 degrees. However, the reporting station at Falcon Lake (a reservoir on the Rio Grande about 80 miles south of Laredo) clocked a high of 116 on Friday, which not only matched the hottest day Death Valley has seen this year, it was also 9 degrees hotter than the Eastern California desert that earned its name because gold-rushers kept dying from the heat when trying to get across it. It’s unlikely that South Texas continues to keep pace with Death Valley—the highest temp in Laredo on the ten-day forecast is 105, while the lowest expected in that part of California is 106—but it’s enough to say we got there at all.
Of course, it’s not just South Texas that’s hotter than hell lately. How about, uh, Finland?
Historical chart. There are no known cases in Finland's climate history when it has been hotter than now so early in the summer. pic.twitter.com/CrJAEKw49D— Mika Rantanen (@mikarantane) June 7, 2019
We don’t usually spend too much time talking about our Finnish friends here at Texas Monthly, but it’s useful to put staggering, record temperatures here in context as part of a trend of staggering, record temperatures in other parts of the world. While Brownsville is well-equipped, relatively speaking, to handle a 104 degree day in June, it’s probably not a good idea to treat this as an isolated incident, rather than part of global climate change. We may have only topped Death Valley in June once this year, but Texas could well be competing for that trophy a lot more frequently.