It isn’t at all unusual to have hot and dry weather in Montana in August. Our forecast for today in 104 F and tomorrow it is supposed to top 108 F. It is normally hotter than the official temperatures on our front porch, but again, there isn’t much that is unusual, though we had a much colder and wetter first half of the year.
It is interesting to look at the historical records, though. I haven’t done this in several months.
First, I should point out the danger of the dry heat we normally have in August. The heat usually occurs with very low humidity levels. Having 100+ F temperatures and a humidity of under 15% is common. This combination is exceptionally dangerous. When the humidity gets that low, sweat often evaporates before a person is even aware that they are sweating. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real dangers that can happen quickly. The fact is that we are under a heat advisory for exactly that reason. At noon today, our humidity was 25% and dropping.
So what about the historical records? The record for the hottest ninth of August occurred in 1928 when the temperature reached 100 F. If it reaches 104 today, like is forecast, it would break the record for the day by 4 degrees.
The record for the hottest temperature here for the entire month of August happened in 1961 when the temperature reached 106. If it does reach 108 tomorrow, it will break the record for the hottest tenth of August (set in 1935 at 104) as well as the hottest day in August.
What is a little deceptive is that so far this month, despite the heat, we’ve been well below record high temperature. Further, the forecast for Sunday is 81. We have a front coming in that should cool things down for several days and a drop of 20 degrees will be substantial.
Like people often do when it gets hot, plenty of people are complaining about the heat here. However, almost as many people are thankful that it isn’t like last year. This time last year, it was about 10 degrees cooler, but the air was so filled with smoke from major forest fires that it was difficult to breathe. Everything had a reddish hue from the sunlight coming through the smoke. Several days, the smoke was so dense that we couldn’t see across the street. More than once, we were also showered by glowing embers from the nearest fire, though it was over five miles away. Still, that fire was over 42,000 acres in size and was considered one of the smaller major blazes in the state.
This year, though we’ve had numerous fires, most of them have been kept to below a few hundred acres and there haven’t been any large fires locally. There is a smoky haze in the air, but it is mostly smoke that has blown in from fires that aren’t very close to us.
Incidentally, just to be fair, the record cold temperature for this date was 32 F, set in 1914. We are well above that mark, but it has been known to occasionally be cold in August here, too.