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      July 8, 1936: The All-time Record Heat Wave

      Heat waves in the U.S. peaked in the 1930s. Notice that the 60s and 1980s had the most record lows set in the U.S.

      The all-time record heat wave in Upper Michigan and much of the country was in full swing on July 8, 1936. Escanabaâ??s residents wilted under 104-degree heat. However, the lightkeeper in that town â??enjoyed the fresh breezes from the lakeâ?? that â??made living comfortableâ?? at his shoreline location. The next day the temperature uptown soared to 102 at 10 a.m., while at the same time at the lighthouse, the mercury leveled off at a more comfortable 88 degrees.

      Escanaba endured the searing heat with most of its natural ice supply lost. On July 7, fire leveled the Swanson Ice House, melting the precious contents of the building in a matter of two hours.

      The scorching heat developed over the Plain states just after the Fourth. Bismarck, North Dakota went to 106 degrees on July 5. Daytime highs stayed above 100 degrees the next week. During that time, residents suffered through the warmest low temperature ever recorded in central North Dakotaâ??83 on the 11th.

      In the Upper Peninsula, it got so hot in Menominee that a thermometer broke. Actually, the thermometer was overexposed. City employees at the water works placed a thermometer directly in the sun; minutes later, the temperature rose to 120 degrees and broke the glass containing the mercury. Menominee reached 99 degrees in the shade on July 7 and 102 on the 8th.

      Record breaking heat was experienced in the â??Queen Cityâ?? by the lake. Marquette reached 103 degrees on July 7, and 101 on both the 8th and 9th. It was the first time since 1901 that the weather bureau recorded three days in a month with a temperature above 100 degrees, and the first time ever this milestone was reached over consecutive days. Even out on the areaâ??s â??largest natural air conditionerâ?? there was no escape from the hot air mass. Sailors on an ore carrier 10 miles offshore on Lake Superior said the temperature there climbed over 100 degrees.

      The climax of this historic heat wave came on July 13. Both Ironwood and Marquette suffered with a 104 degree high accompanied by excessive humidity. For Ironwood, this reading still stands as the all-time record high. In Marquette, the temperature stayed above 100 for nearly four hours late that afternoon and early evening. In Munising, the thermometer peaked above 100 degrees from noon to 7pm. In Republic, it topped out at a sizzling 107.

      You here lots of media coverage about the increase in extreme weather these days. Yes, there are extreme events, but there are ALWAYS extreme weather events. There is absolutely nothing unusual about what is occurring now. In fact, in comparison to the 1930s, it is a rather benign period of weather in the U.S. (Image 1 above). Records for extreme heat were set in 16 states from the Plains to the East Coast during the second week of July 1936; this after many spots set or approached records for duration of cold the winter before. Mio, in northeast Lower Michigan, set the all-time state high temperature record of 112 degrees during the heat wave. Just to the south, Wisconsinâ??s record of 114 was notched at Baraboo. In North Dakota, the temperature in one town rose to 121 degrees; this Death Valley-like temperature has never been equaled since. Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma also reached the 120-degree mark; the only instances in recorded history of 120 degrees or more in multiple states outside the Desert Southwest. The Heat Wave of July 1936 still stands as the most intense in United States history.