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The summers of 1939, 1961 and 1967 were the hottest ever in Coeur d'Alene

| May 11, 2015 9:00 PM

Every May, I list the hottest summer seasons on record dating back some 120 years in Coeur d'Alene to 1895, the start of daily records.

Our warmest summer season in the past 120 years since 1895, the inception of local daily weather record-keeping in Coeur d'Alene, was 48 years ago in 1967. I remember it well.

All-time record heat and parching drought that summer baked virtually the entire Far West for weeks on end. There were dozens of wildfires in nine states.

The average daily maximum reading that blistering summer was an incredible 9 degrees above normal at 90.8 degrees between June 21 and Sept. 23, 1967 in Coeur d'Alene.

There were an all-time record 16 afternoons in the summer of 1967 with scorching temperatures at or above 100 degrees in Coeur d'Alene. There were a record nine days in August 1967 alone with triple-digit temperatures. There were likewise 45 days that blistering summer with 'Sholeh' readings of 90 degrees or higher, also an all-time record.

The second hottest summer season on record took place in 1961. That sweltering three-month span saw 15 afternoons in Coeur d'Alene at or above 100 degrees. There were a total of 43 days at or above the 90 degree 'Sholeh' mark, pretty warm indeed.

The most intense summer heatwave on record since 1895 occurred from Aug. 2-5 in 1961. On Aug. 4, 1961, the mercury peaked in town at an all-time record egg-frying 109 degrees. It was 112 degrees in the Spokane Valley.

In third place in the all-time hottest summer ever standings in Coeur d'Alene is 1939, three years before this climatologist's birth in 1942, likewise a very hot summer.

There were a dozen afternoons during that pre-World War II summer with triple-digit temperatures. An additional 35 afternoons that season reached 90 degrees or above in town.

Our hottest July day on record in Coeur d'Alene was a toasty 108 degrees on July 28, 1939, just a degree cooler than the all-time high of 109 degrees on Aug. 4, 1961, as mentioned previously.

One farm northwest of Coeur d'Alene reported an unofficial maximum reading of 114 degrees that same oven-like afternoon. It was 120 degrees on July 28, 1939, at Walla Walla, Wash.!

Believe it or not, in the past two decades of supposed 'global warming,' we haven't seen a single summer season hot enough to be listed in the 'top 10' in the all-time heat parade. Most summers, in fact, have been cooler than normal. For example, the summer of 1991, following the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, didn't even see one day above 89 degrees during the entire season.

Our hottest summer since 1990 occurred in 2006, which ended up in 16th place in the heat standings since 1895. That torrid summer had 38 'Sholeh Days,' well above the 23-day norm. There were four straight days of 100-degree plus heat from July 21-24, 2006, peaking at 104 degrees on July 23.

Will this fast-approaching summer of 2015 finally crack the 'top 10' for extreme heat across North Idaho and the rest of the so-called Inland Empire? I doubt it.

Last summer, in 2014, we saw our 27th hottest summer season since 1895 locally in Coeur d'Alene. We had two sizzling afternoons on July 29 and again on July 31 with triple digit readings above the century mark and a total of 30 blistering 'Sholeh Days' at or above 90 degrees between late May and Sept. 7. Our normal number of such hot days in a given summer has been 25 since records began on a daily basis locally in Coeur d'Alene 120 years ago.

This summer, I see approximately 28 'Sholeh Days' at or above 90 degrees in town. I'm not sure that we will reach the 100 degree mark despite expected drier than normal weather patterns with a "boatload of sunshine." Once again, only time will tell.


As of this Wednesday, May 6 writing, we've been bone-dry and generally warmer than usual for mid spring across North Idaho and the rest of the dusty Inland Empire.

This desert-like weather pattern, in my climatological opinion, has been caused by the sudden 'rebirth' of El Nino in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean.

While we probably will see some much-needed showers and some brief thunderstorm activity in the next 30 days into early to mid June, it should be drier and warmer than usual overall between now and at least late September or early October.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. Email

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