Extremely Average…


It’s time for a history lesson, fellow readers.

But first, we need to define two important words; “extreme” and “average”.

“Extreme” is an adjective, defined as “reaching a high or the highest degree; very great; further from the center or a given point; outermost”.

“Average” is a noun meaning “constituting the result obtained by addressing together several quantities and then dividing this total by the number of quantities”.

Got it?

Now, on with my story.

My morning routine always includes a visit to a weather website.

Including the current forecast, I always check the records for the day.

I noted in the month of July that several of the month’s high temperature marks in this area were set in 1936.

Further investigation showed that June through August of that year was the warmest on record since 1895.

The nation’s average July, 1936 was 74.6 degrees.

More recently, the summer of 2006 saw the nation’s average temperature that July was 74.4 degrees but still “second fiddle” to the sizzler that was 1936.

Global warming indeed!

In the month of June in that year, 8 states logged all-time high temperatures for the month.

But wait!

It’s gets worse.

July, 1936 saw 14 states record all-time high temperature readings.

Seventeen states equaled or broke all time highs that month.

One night, in particular, shows what a roaster 1936 was.

On the night of July 24th and the morning of the 25th, the LOW temperature that night was a chilly 91 degrees in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, normally a “cooler” summer spot logged 5 consecutive nights when overnight lows stayed above 80 degrees.

Bismarck, North Dakota had a morning LOW of 83 degrees on July 11th.

On July 15th, 1936 all average high temperatures were 108.7 degrees at each of the 113 official weather stations in Iowa.

This hot 1936 started in late June but the extreme heat began to wane in September of that year.

More than 5,000 Americans died from heat stroke and heat exhaustion but in those days, our population was 128 million.

Folks in those days didn’t have air conditioning either.

Now, remember, this was during the infamous “Dust Bowl” era in America so the humidity was low due to the arid conditions.

So it was “dry heat”.

So that’s better, right?


Scientists believe the “Dust Bowl” helped fuel the extreme heat of 1936.

The “Dust Bowl” occurred in 3 waves…1934, 1936 and 1939-1940 and while it was primarily in the area of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico, weather patterns all over the U>S were impacted.

The “Dust Bowl” spurred John Steinbeck to pen the classic “Grapes of Wrath” in 1939.

Folk singer and songwriter, Woodie Guthrie, who wrote “This Land is Your Land” actually released an album called “Dust Bowl Ballads”.

Aptly named.

Some of the selections by the “Oklahoma Cowboy” included “The Great Dust Storm”, “Dusty Old Dust”, “Dust Bowl Blues” and “Dust Can’t Kill Me” among the 15 selections.

But this blog is entitled “Extremely Average”.

Why’s that?

Well, I’ve talked all about the record-breaking heat in 1936.

But did you know, statistically, 1936 turned out to be a near-normal year when it came to the average temperature?

That’s because 1936 was also the coldest year ever.

The Midwestern U.S. and the Canadian Prairies were most-impacted with only the extreme Southwest and California escaping the chill.

The national average temperature than winter, from January through March was 26 degrees.

Langdon, North Dakota logged 41 consecutive days, almost 6 weeks, when the temperature never got about ZERO.

Fargo, North Dakota “warmed” to 32 degrees on March 31st for the first time since December 14th, 1935.

That’s COLD even for Fargo, North Dakota!

In fact, the winter of 1936 was the coldest ever for state states of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota as well as North and South Dakota.

A city in Ohio recorded a wind chill of minus 85 degrees in January and rivers as far south as Virginia were ice-bound in February.

Five of the 12 months in 1936 brought BELOW average temperatures in the United States.

In this year of weather extremes, North Dakota logged a record high of 121 degrees on July 6th but on February 15th, the mercury plummeted to 60 degrees BELOW zero.

That’s a span of 181 degrees.

Statistically though, 1936 ended just a little above average.

That’s why averages are deceiving.

Anyone living in these parts in 1936 would not describe that year as “average” but statistically, it was “extreme”.

“Average” is what the “extremes” work out to be.

So, if it’s 100 degrees today and 40 degrees tomorrow, the average would be pretty nice…70.

But that 100 felt pretty hot while that 40 was mighty chilly.

Long before we had the Weather Channel and all kinds of colorful weather graphics, we saw some pretty wild weather in 1936.

Kind of makes me wonder how today’s “Cumulo-Bimbuses” on television would have handled that.

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