How common are heat waves in CNY?

Weather

A heat wave is defined in Central New York (Syracuse) as having at least three consecutive days with high temperatures of 90° or higher.  

So far in 2020 we’ve felt 2 heat waves already and we are only about halfway through the summer season! Of course the most recent heat wave that just ended last Saturday, July 11th was the second longest heat wave in Syracuse’s history after a whole week of 90+ degree temperatures!

While it’s not unusual to feel one or even two heat waves in a year in Syracuse (CNY), but what about more than 2 heat waves in a year? After doing some digging through the numbers going back to 1902 when records started being recorded for Syracuse we found 11 years in which there were at least three heat waves that occurred. The last time Syracuse had at least 3 heat waves in a year was back in 2002. There is a distinct possibility of us getting the third heat wave of 2020 starting this weekend.

Believe it or not, but there have been 4 years with four heat waves with the most recent time being back in 2002. The other three years we had 4 heat waves were in 1988, 1955 and 1949. Yes, having four heat waves is pretty rare in Syracuse with it occurring a little over 3% of the time since 1902!

What about the number of heat waves per decade since the early 1900s? Chief Meteorologist Jim Teske also did some stat digging and discovered that the two decades with the most heat waves were the 1950s and 1930s with 15 and 13, respectively! The decade with the least was the 1920s.

The last two decades since the turn of the century we had 9 in the 2000s and 10 in the 2010s and something to note is that there has not been an uptick in heat waves in Syracuse the last 4 decades.

The average number of heat waves per decade in Syracuse since the 1910s is 9 which equates to almost 1 each year. Needless to say we are off to a fast start in the 2020s with 2 and counting in the first year of the decade!  We shall see how many more heat waves we feel between now and when the calendar flips to October.

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