When I was a kid, my dad would tell me great stories of the summer of 1936. The details of the extreme heat, dust storms, and true or not, his story about being able to throw a rock across a nearby lake (which is usually about 200 yards wide). Perhaps what fascinated me the most was that he slept outdoors as it was too hot to sleep inside because as a kid, sleeping outside without a tent sounded like a dream come true.
As I was finishing up graduate school, I was to some degree able to live through my own 1936, the summer of 1988. Granted, the heat was not quite as extreme, but the number of 90 degree days was about the same. Plus, although I did not have an air conditioned room, two fans placed in the window allowed me to spend those summer nights inside, not outside, yet, I felt like I at least could understand to a small degree what my dad lived through a bit better than I did previously.
Another generation was born and never really experienced a hot summer, until perhaps this year. My dad had 1936, my summer was 1988 and perhaps my kids will tell stories about the summer of 2012.
It was during this week in 1936 that Fargo Moorhead recorded a temperature above zero after 37 straight days with both the high and low at or below 0 degrees. It was a cold snap with no equal in the record books. Yet, other communities had it even worse. Langdon, ND for instance, went 42 straight days with the temperature below zero and unlike Fargo Moorhead, continued to see the low temperatures fall below zero for two more weeks.
In fact, the first day of 1936 with a low above zero in Langdon was on March 7. From December 9 through March 6 Langdon recorded a low temperature below zero every day with the exception of 5 days in December. The spring fared no better with temperatures below zero on 11 days in late March into early April. The low on April 8, 1936 was -15 degrees, which was fortunately the last below zero reading of the season for them.
The residents of Fargo Moorhead and much of the rest of the area did not know it at the time, but on this date in 1936 the most intense heat wave since records began was about to end. July 18, 1936 was the 15th straight day with a high temperature at or above 90 degrees. Included in that streak were 8 straight days, July 6-13, with a high temperature exceeding 100 degrees.
No other heat wave in the record books comes close to what occurred in July 1936. Although the streak of 90 degree days came to an end on July 18, 1936, it did not exactly turn cool as 15 more 90 degree days were recorded in the next 24 days. Although, no more 100 degree weather was experienced for nearly two months, things changed on September 22 when the high temperatures soared to 101 degrees, which to this day, still stands as the latest 100 degree day on record.
It was during this week in 1936 that residents in North Dakota and northern Minnesota were thinking positive thoughts, literally. After nearly six weeks, the temperature finally climbed above zero for the first time. In Fargo Moorhead, the temperature never climbed beyond 0 degrees from January 15 through February 20, a total of 37 days. In some locations, including in Langdon, North Dakota, that stretch was even longer.
At no point since 1881 when records started has there been a streak of cold weather quite like it. During that stretch the coldest high temperature on record was observed at -29 degrees on January 22, 1936. Some of you may remember we came close to tying that mark when a high of -28 degrees was recorded on February 1, 1996 during a brutal, albeit much shorter cold snap. The second longest stretch of weather with a high at or below zero is 11 days, recorded in both 1996 and in 1899.
Today’s Record High is 114 degrees set back in 1936. That was the warmest temperature ever recorded in Fargo Moorhead. Back in 1936 the official readings in town were kept on the roof of the Moorhead Post Office, so it probably was not 114 degrees had the reading been recorded on the ground in a standard setting, but having said that, it is considered the all-time record since 1881.