Why Is It So
Hot This Summer?
Fact One: It is hot this summer. Abnormally hot. Statistically hot: This summer’s average high temperature for the month of June for Dallas-Fort Worth was a blistering 96.2 degrees according to figures from the National Weather Service. Last year, June 1976, the average high for the month was a mere 90.2 degrees. The normal average high for June in Dallas-Fort Worth is only 90.8. Figure it this way if you want to: since June has 30 days and the daily high has averaged 6 degrees hotter, your poor baked body had to absorb 180 more degrees this June than it did last June.
And July has been even worse. For the first two weeks of July, the average high was a staggering 99.9 degrees. Last summer, the first two weeks in July averaged a high of 89.6 degrees. A 10-degree jump. That’s a lot. And that’s hot.
Okay, so it’s hot. But so what? You might well ask. It’s been hot before. Everyone knows it’s hot in Texas in the summer. Hot weather talk is for codgers in rockers on verandas. Hot weather talk is small talk. “Hot ’nough for ya?” Hot weather talk is idle talk. So what’s all this fuss about here?
The fuss is this: our weather, all weather, the weather has been weird lately. First there was last year’s incredibly hot summer in Western Europe, then the severe drought in the American Midwest. Next it snowed in Miami while it thawed in Alaska. Buffalo meanwhile was simply buried. And Dallas hasn’t escaped – after one of the coldest winters on record, we’re now deep into one of the hottest summers ever. Just what the hell is going on?
Meteorology is defined as “the science dealing with the phenomena of the atmosphere, especially weather and weather conditions.” There’s something about the word “science” that leads you to expect answers. But there’s something about the word “phenomena” that leads you not to believe them. Ask meteorologists to explain what’s happening in our atmosphere these days and they’ll offer some answers. But they won’t sound entirely convinced so you’ll find it hard to believe them. And the meteorologists certainly don’t believe each other. There’s something refreshing about it really. With satellites, radar, blimps, balloons, gauges, computers, and meters, the science of weather is still anybody’s guess.
And Why Was It So Cold Last Winter?
But there are two particularly interesting climatological theories circulating these days. The two, of course, do not agree. They are, in fact, about as diametrically opposed as fire and ice. One is known as the “Greenhouse Effect.” Those who subscribe to this theory contend that man’s increased rate of burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, etc.) is releasing an increased amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide does not screen incoming sunlight, it does hinder the earth’s own heat radiations from escaping outward into space. In other words, heat in but no heat out, causing a gradual increase in the atmospheric temperatures of the earth. This would shift the temperate agricultural growing belts to the north. Meaning that instead of growing soybeans in McKinney, Texas, they’ll be growing them on the shore of the Hudson Bay. Dallas would be left in the middle of a rainless, useless desert. You think it’s hot now . . .
However, if that thought fevers your brow, you might cool off with this one, theory number two, the “New Ice Age Effect.” Proponents of this notion claim that increased industrial and agricultural activity has released increased amounts of particulate matter (dust, smoke, sand, grit, etc.) into the atmosphere. By reflecting the sun’s rays away from the earth, these particles are, the theory goes, causing a gradual cooling effect upon the earth and allowing arctic movements to carry much further south. If so, McKinney will be harvesting frozen soybeans. Dallas will be inundated with Buffalo’s snow.
But then, that chilling proposition, like its Greenhouse opponent, assumes a process of many, many years. Their effect upon our immediate extremes has been minuscule, if any. There are more immediate reasons. Why was it so cold last winter? That’s been attributed to something called “westerlies” in the polar air mass which whipped much further south than usual this past winter, giving Dallas and Fort Worth their January ice follies. And why is it so hot here this summer? We asked our local weather experts, and their distinguished explanations appear on the next page.
But we have our own theory about why it’s so hot here this summer: It’s all in our minds. Consider these scientific phenomena. (1) The Memory Effect: Dallas-Fort Worth has been spoiled in the past couple of years by two relatively mild summers in a row. It’s hotter because we forgot how hot it can get. (2) The Magic Number Effect: 98 degrees sounds hot – a good solid bake. 100 degrees sounds excruciatingly hot – a full-fledged, life-defying broil. Last summer, through the middle of July, there had been not a single day reaching the magic 100-degree mark. This summer, by July 15, the mercury had already bumped 100 twelve times. It’s hotter because the digits are hotter. (3) The Buzz Effect: This summer is particulary infested with cicadas (or locusts, as laymen and transplanted New Yorkers call them). Their throbbing buzz is incessant. It’s hotter because it sounds hotter. (4) The DP&L Effect: Every time we get a bill from the electric company, the gas company, or the water company, a little leaflet reminds us of the draining of the energy and the rising of the costs. Turn up your thermostat to 78, water the lawn at five in the morning, insulate your attic, take cold showers. Take heed of the heat, they keep saying, or you’ll pay. It’s hotter because it costs more to be hotter. (5) The Unscrupulous Media Effect: Certain local magazines put sweaty, sultry girls on their covers in a wanton effort to attract your heat-infected mind, not letting you forget for a moment how hot it is this summer. It’s hotter because cruel media remind you that it’s hotter.
See. It’s all in the mind. So just sit back in your easy chair, sip a glass of lemonade, thumb through a few pages of weather trivia, and be cool. It’s all in your mind. But for God’s sake, don’t go outside.
What the Experts Say
Weathermen, in a way, are like baseball managers – when they’re right, they’re just doing their job. But when they’re wrong, oh the abuse. And who’s to say what’s worse, a pinch-hit double play grounder in the bottom of the ninth or an unexpected (unpredicted) thunderstorm in the bottom of the fourth. Either way, the fans are going to grumble. As Channel 5’s weatherman Harold Taft puts it, “If I’m right, I don’t hear anything. If I’m wrong, I get screamed at for ruining some poor lady’s tomato garden.”
But they’re a brave breed, these weathermen, and when we asked them to tell us why it’s so hot this summer, they didn’t hesitate to offer their opinions. And their opinions might prompt another more appropriate analogy: Like snowflakes, no two weathermen are exactly alike. Harold Taft, Channel 5. “Yes, it’s a hot one all right. Quite a bit hotter than usual. In fact, with so many days in the 100’s, I think it’s an even worse summer than the official records will show. It’s a normal, seasonal pattern though. The anti-cyclone, the large pressure area that always builds up over the southern U.S. in the summer, is just larger than usual. Why? Well, the heat makes it bigger and then it makes the heat. It’s a chicken and egg situation. The only thing that might relieve it would be tropical storms in the Gulf if the waters are warm enough. But that’s not happening this year. It may be that the extremely cold winter left the waters colder than usual. In my opinion, we’re going to see a general cooling trend over the next half century but with more extremes – colder winters and hotter summers but with a net loss. There are lots of reasons for this, but I think the most interesting theory is that the earth’s tilt on its axis is changing, slightly affecting incoming solar radiation. For the rest of this summer? Well, there’s about a 70 percent probability that August follows the patterns of July. So you’d have to say the hottest ones are still to come. If the winds really die one day, it could hit 105. If there’s any relief, it won’t come from the north though. The northern fronts aren’t important – they aren’t going to make it. Watch the tropics. That’s what I keep saying, watch the tropics.”
Troy Dungan, Channel 8. “Well, the heat’s not really all that unusual. It’s a little above normal. We’ve had lots of 100’s but we’ve only broken two records so far. The problem is in the upper air patterns – you have to watch the low pressure troughs from the north and so far they aren’t coming down far enough to bring relief. But no, I don’t see any connection with the unusual cold winter patterns that we had in January. And in terms of long range trends, I don’t see anything really significant in it. But then, I’m not a climatologist. As an immediate thing, it may be significant only in terms of crop damage, which is already a precarious situation. August? Well, if you remember, last summer started cool and got quite hot in August, so the situation could reverse itself this year. But I doubt it. You never really know. That’s why weather experts never seem to agree. It’s like I heard someone say just recently, ’The earth is really just like a person – it’s forever catching little chills and fevers.” Warren Culbertson, Channel 4. “In the first place, I wouldn’t say it’s all that hot. Oh, it’s a few degrees above normal, but not unusually hot. I’d say it’s almost a normal summer. In fact, I’d say that last summer, when it was so cool, that was the unusual summer. The only thing unusual about this one is in its persistence and that’s just because of sluggish circulation. We’re in the doldrums. Or actually the doldrums came to us. The doldrums are technically that belt where the atmospheres of the northern and southern hemisphere come together, moving to either side of the equator with the seasons. They call them the horse latitudes – from an old story about a sailing fleet that got stranoed in the dead winds there. The ships were loaded with horses and eventually they had to throw them all overboard. I guess the smell just got to be too much. Anyway, there haven’t been any hurricanes to stir things up – so the folks down on the coast are delighted, and we suffer. From a climatological standpoint, August is our hottest month and I see no indication of a change, so I’d have to say the worst is yet to come. But then, in two weeks it could all change. When my forecasts go more than 36 minutes into the future, they go to pieces. I guess that doesn’t give you a very good story does it? But anyway, I hope you sell a lot of magazines.”
Meanwhile, Along the 32d Parallel…
It seemed a simple enough proposition. The premise: Dallas is experiencing unusual weather of late. What about the weather in cities around the world located on our same latitude (the bond of latitude seeming a strong one in a meteorological sense)? We spun the globe to find our sister cities and discovered these, very close to the Dallas latitude of 32 47 N: Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.; Tijuana, Mexico; Casablanca, Morocco; and Nanking, People’s Republic of China. Okay, we thought, let’s check their weather.
Charleston (32 48 N): A call to the National Weather Service was logical. No, they said, you’ll have to contact the National Climatic Center in Asheville, North Carolina. There a Mr. Doehring was glad to offer these statistics about Charleston: It’s hotter than usual there this summer too, the mean temperature in June up by 3.3° from the average. And the winter in Charleston was cold, some 10 degrees below the usual mean in January. And they saw an inch of snow, something they almost never see in Charleston. Thank you, Mr. Doehring. Now, what about Tijuana?
Tijuana (32 29 N): “No,” said Mr. Doehring, “that’s a problem. We don’t have an official weather station there so we wouldn’t have statistics on Tijuana. How about San Diego?” No thanks, we’d find another source. Who would know about the weather in Tijuana? Ah, a Tijuana weatherman. We contacted HEWT-TV Channel 12 in Tijuana, but their weatherman wasn’t in. However, General Manager Jose Marquez was more than happy to give us these comments: “The climate here is very nice. It’s 72° today – it’s been a little cooler than the regular summer. The winds come from the southwest all the time, 3 to 10 miles per hour. We had a cold January, though, averaging 45 to 50 degrees. And it never rains in the summer.” Thank you, Mr. Marquez.
Casablanca (32 39 N): Who to turn to now? There must certainly be an agency in Washington solely reponsible for compiling and filing international weather data. U.S. Government Operator #44 sent us to the National Meteorological Center who gave us the telephone number of a Dr. Felch with the National Weather Service in Maryland who just might have the Casablanca data we were seeking. We called Dr. Felch only to find his num-ber was “not in service.” There had been mention of something called the Environ-mental Data Service, so it was back to the Government Operator where we asked for the phone number. “What agency is that under?” asked the operator. “It’s just called the Environmental Data Serv-ice,” we responded. “But what agency is it under?” “Uh, I don’t know what agency it’s under.” “Well, do you know what building it’s in?” “Never mind.” New idea; the U.S. Consulate in Casa-blanca. A call to the local operator: “I’d like to place an overseas call, please.” “Where to?” asked the operator. “Moroc-co.” “Morocco, Venezuela?” “Uh, no. Morocco, Africa.” “Oh.” The overseas connection was a barely audible one. we screamed our weather request and a Mr. Fendrick of the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca screamed back this report: “It’s much cooler than usual this summer, in Fahrenheit about 70 to 75 degrees in the day. Normally it’s about 85. The winter was cooler too, about 55 to 60 during the day. And the winter was much, much rainier than usual, flooded a lot of crops and ruined them. Then it stopped and hasn’t rained since so the crops are suffering from a drought. Otherwise, the weather is very normal.” Thank you, Mr. Fendrick.
Nanking (32 01 N): China. This would be difficult. No consulate in Nanking, so that route wouldn’t work. Who would know about the weather in China? Ah, of course. Who knows a little about everything? The CIA. We called the CIA in Washington and made our request. “I’m not sure,” said the answering voice. “Let me transfer you.” Transfer. Request. “I don’t know about that. “Let me transfer you to another office.” Transfer. Request. “1 wouldn’t have that information, but the office downstairs might. I’ll transfer you.” Transfer. Request. “No. There’s no information like that that I know of. No. We wouldn’t have that information. No.” Just like the movies. New approach: the State Department. We made our weather inquiry. We were offered a booklet called “China City Brief For Tourists.” No thanks. But they kindly offered the unlisted number of the People’s Republic Liaison Office in Washington. “Hello,” a distinctly Oriental voice answered. Ms. Chu Fu Wu listened to our question. “Ah,” Ms. Wu replied. “Nanking in summer very hot.” Is it any hotter this summer? “Usually very hot in summer.” Okay, how about the winters in Nanking? “Winter is cold.” All right. Was this past winter perhaps unusually cold for Nanking? “I don’t know. I was not there.” Thank you, Ms. Wu.
How Hot Was It?
It Was So Hot…
●In 1952, the City of Dallas hired a rainmaker. Dr. Irving P. Krick of Denver was given a six-month, $36,500 contract to make it rain. He set up 45 “generators” at strategic points around the city to send silver iodide crystals into arriving cloud formations. And lo and behold, during the next six months, the Lake Dallas water supply increased by over 350 percent. Dr. Krick was hailed a genius. So they hired him again the next year. For $52,000. But the results that year “were considered doubtful by city officials.” Religious groups began screaming that the project was sacrilegious. But never say dry, the City Council hired him again the next year. Again, dubious results. But again a new contract for Dr. Krick. Finally, in November of 1956, the City Council said enough and cancelled his contract. Over four years, the City of Dallas paid Dr. Krick $158,505 to make it rain.
●Try, try again. In February of 1971, the citizens of the small town of Quanah, Tx., northwest of Dallas, decided to try a little rainmaking of their own to break a drought. Using an “old Indian recipe,” they boiled a pot of brew on the courthouse square with coyote eyebrows, lizard tails, and horned toad teeth, among other goodies. Two hours later, two-tenths of an inch of rain fell. Immediately followed by a 40-mile per hour dust storm.
●When the temperature hit 110° on July 12, of 1954, seven victims were admitted to Dallas hospitals with heat prostration, including a 48-year-old Oak Cliff inmate of the city jail, who was admitted to Parkland. All were treated and released – except the inmate, who, in the confusion before he was treated, released himself and disappeared.
●Several days later, in that summer of 1954, the temperature had reached a record 111° by 2 p.m., when a bank of clouds drifted in and dropped .02 of an inch of rain. By 3:15 p.m., the temperature was 89°, a drop of 22 degrees in just over an hour.
●But they say it was even hotter in 1909. On August 17, Dr. J.R. Bragg walked to the front of the old Majestic Theater Building on the corner of Commerce and St. Paul. While a crowd gathered to watch, Dr. Bragg laid a thermometer on the sidewalk – it registered 138°, as high as it could measure. The good Doctor then proceeded to pull an egg from out of his pocket and fry it on the sidewalk.
● No one who sweated through Dallas’ Great Drought is likely to forget it. For six years, from 1951 to 1957, lakes all but evaporated, lawns parched in the sun. Because of the drought conditions in 1954, a sprinkling ordinance was passed. If the cops caught you watering your lawn on the wrong day, you got slapped with a $200 fine.
● The visible effects of the drought are the most vivid memories for most residents. Florence Curts recalls an experience from her first days in Dallas, after her family moved here in 1952. “We were exploring Dallas, and we went to see White Rock Lake. There was a little mud hole in the middle, and the rest was all cracked and dried. The ground was real spongy when we walked on it. It was an eerie feeling.”
●Henry Graeser has good reason to remember the drought. He was director ofDallas’ water utilities department from1950 to 1975. This 1977 hot summer doesn’tbother him at all. “We haven’t comeanywhere close to those summers. ’ Hisdepartment took all manner of action toquench the problem. They first institutedthe alternate-day limit on lawn sprinkling.That wasn’t enough. “I think it spentmore water than it saved, because Americans have a habit of getting their share.”When the situation became more severe,they limited homeowners to watering onthe date corresponding to the last numeral oftheir street addresses (for example, theresidents of a 3723 street address couldwater on the third, thirteenth, and twenty-third of the month). “People in Dallaswere very cooperative. They understoodthe problem.”
●When the drought cracked in 1957, therewas little doubt it was over. “Garza-LittleElm and Grapevine filled up within acouple of weeks, went over the spillway,and we had a flood.” Nature followed uptypical Texas fashion with the devastatingtornado of 1957. Well, at least it raine.
The only consolation for weather this hot lies in the dubious achievement of setting records. That way, at least, you can tell your grandkids, “Yeah, I was there back in the summer of 77 …” Unfortunately, this summer hasn’t set any biggies. Yet. But here’s what we’re shooting at.
Hottest Day Ever
Dallas (official): 111° on July 25, 1954
Dallas (unofficial): 114° on August 17,1909 (Official Dallas records did not begin until 1913. This figure was reported by Volunteer Weather Observer G.A. Eisenlohr of what was known as the “nonprofessional weather bureau.”)
Fort Worth: 112° on August 18, 1909 and August 11, 1936.
Most Days of 100°or More in A Summer1954 with 52 days of 100-plus temperatures.
Most Consecutive Days of 100° or More 25 days, from August 2 to August 26, 1952.
Yes, it’s hot this summer. And it’s not going to go away. So you seek relief. What better way than a cooling plunge into ice cream?
This city is getting thick with ice cream. It seems you can’t turn a corner anymore without spotting yet another ice cream parlor. And every other week, some new original, exotic, time-honored brand rolls into town laying claim to the title of World’s Greatest. Not to mention the Flavor War (blueberry cheesecake ice cream?). What’s more, the stuff is going for as much as 600 a scoop. It’s getting serious. And it’s getting confusing. So, in the interest of order and clarity, we decided to lick this thing once and for all. A tasting.
The important question was “Who would judge?” Is there really any such thing as an ice cream expert? Ice cream is pleasure food, a treat for the masses. In that sense, any lover of ice cream is an ice cream expert. Our panel would come from the heartland, just folks like you and me. The ten judges: A 31-year-old piano manufacturer, a 27-year-old salesman, a 12-year-old seventh grader, an 18-year-old manual laborer, a 46-year-old shopowner, a 26-year-old public relations executive, an 11-year-old gymnast, a 60-year-old printer, a 19-year-old college . student, and a 26-year-old copy boy.
The next question was “What flavors?” With ten competing brands, it would have to be kept simple or it would quickly end in sweet and senseless overdose. One elemental, representative, ever-popular flavor. Of course. Chocolate. Just “Chocolate.” No “Double Fudge Chocolate.” No “Chewy Chunky Chocolate.” Just “Chocolate.”
All the ice cream was purchased hand-packed and refrigerated constantly and equally. All the ice cream was served unmarked and unidentified. Judges were asked to rate each ice cream on a scale of zero to one hundred and to make appropriate commentary. The results (with price per pint noted with each brand):
1. Baskin-Robbins ($1.05). 858 Points. That’s right. Baskin-Robbins. The tabulators were shocked. Who would have guessed it? With all the stylish, sophisticated competition, Baskin-Robbins (almost the McDonald’s of the ice cream world) finished on top. The judges were unanimously impressed with what they generally characterized as a richness of flavor – honest, straightforward chocolate. (It is probably only fair to note that chocolate and chocolate variations are the cream of the Baskin-Robbins crop, so in a tasting of random flavors, they likely would not have fared so well.) 2. Haagen Dazs ($1.45). 804 Points. This was no surprise.This product of the Bronx has already been royally received by the Dallas ice cream eaters community. Only months ago a connoisseurs item, now it’s almost everywhere. The judges were particularly impressed with a texture best described as “perfect.”
3. Braum’s ($1.14). 610 Points. Anothersurprise. The Ice Cream of the Suburbs(it seems that all their stores are out in thehinterlands) fared remarkably well againstthe big city boys. Judges were mostpleased by a sweetness that managed notto go over the brink.
Ashburn’s (99￠). 598 Points. Goodold Ashburn’s, one of the oldest names inDallas ice cream (though now merged insome odd way with the Polar Bear IceCream chain). This pint was purchasedat the original store on Knox Street, andit was good to see the old timer do wellagainst some of the younger upstarts,Ashburn’s was cited by the judges for itsfirmness and a pleasing, fudgesicle-liketaste.
5. Arthur Maxie’s (93￠). 578 Points. Youprobably won’t recognize this name, butyou’ve probably tasted the ice cream.Arthur Maxie, from his tiny little downtown Dallas plant, provides ice cream formany of the finer restaurants in town. Itis also served in bulk, but, oddly enough,only at a place called the Sandwich Chefin the Park Central complex. Maxie’s wasdescribed as having a very interesting, unusual, slightly bitter flavor, a flavor that grows on you. And in the taste-for-the-price category, Arthur stole the show.
Howard-Johnson’s ($1.15). 429 Points. You just couldn’t havean ice cream tasting without Howard Johnson’s, the name thatstarted the whole notion of ice cream in a rainbow of flavors. Andthey stilldo a pretty fair job of it. The judges found it creamy, creamy,creamy, in fact maybe too creamy for its own good.
Bassett’s ($1.52). 324 Points. Very interesting. This highly-touted,high-priced spread just in from Philadelphia didn’t really turn anyheads. You have to be a little uncertain about an ice cream that saysits consistency is not suitable for a cone (it is dish only at Bassett’s).But we still expected a strong showing. The judges had variouscomments regarding the unusual flavor, but two, strangely, likened it to mushroom.
8. Swensen’s ($1.37). 232 Points. Shocking. They say every Swensen’sis different, but this pint was packed at the highly-regarded, highly-popular Turtle Creek Swensen’s and it still failed to impress thepanel. The overriding criticism was that it was just too too sweet.
9. The Creamery ($1.21). 230 Points. The new kid in town kindof got bullied around. The most recent addition to the local icecream scene (Lakewood and Snider Plaza locations) didn’tfare too well in this round. It was generally characterized asan overdone ice cream, thick, sweet, perfumy.
10. Gaylord’s (26￠). 196 Points. This is the el cheapo brandfrom the neighborhood grocery store, slipped in to test theintegrity of the judges. They weren’t fooled.