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The Science Behind This Year’S Biggest Heat Wave

the sun

Summer heat waves are common in Durham, NC. We are in the midst of a prolonged period of the warmest temperatures of the season, and though there is a glimmer of hope for cooler temperatures next week, according to science, we should expect this to be the hottest time of the year.

What is a Heat Wave?

What is a heat wave? A heat wave is an extended period of excessively hot temperatures, relative to the normal weather for a particular area. In Durham, normal late July high temperatures are around 90 degrees. Our heat wave has produced more temperatures of 95 degrees and above in the last two weeks, than the entire months of May and June.


Late July-Early August is the Hottest Time of the Year

Though we are past the summer solstice, the part of the year when we see the most sunlight, ocean and ground temperatures will continue to rise through the middle of August. This is fuel for future heat saves. Though temperatures are above normal, heat waves are common in the second half of July through the first week or two of August.


Combined with warm ground and ocean temperatures and plenty of sunshine, the large ridge of high pressure that has been present over the central and eastern United States is suppressing potential cold fronts and allowing temperatures to soar. Relief may come as soon as Sunday; however, we can expect hot temperatures through most of August.

How to Stay Cool During Heat Waves

Hydration is key to remaining cool during heat waves. Make sure you and your family are drinking plenty of water. Soda and sugary drinks do little to help the body stay cool in the midst of a heat wave.

bottles of water

Air conditioning is the other weapon in your battle against the heat. Though the kids want to play outside, and you want them to play outside, there are a few steps you can take to make sure everyone is staying cool and safe as well:

  • Stay inside during the hottest hours of the day, 12:00-5:00 PM.
  • Enjoy museums and other air conditioned spaces when it’s hottest.
  • Move television time to the warmest hours of the day.
  • Take the kids outsdie go outside during the evening. Keep cold water with you at all times

You can expect heat waves during the summer, but it is difficult to predict their precise timing. It is vital to make sure your air conditioning system is well-maintained, or you could be left without one of your greatest assets against the heat. This may not be the last prolonged period of excessive heat, so have your HVAC examined by a professional technician.