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

Weather Gems

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Several subscribers have asked me recently to list the exceptionally hot summer seasons since 1895 in Coeur d'Alene and the rest of the Inland Empire.

This summer of 2012 could be the hottest across North Idaho since 2006, thanks to the death of 'La Nina.'

The warmest summer season in the last 118 years, since the beginning of regular local weather record-keeping in 1895, occurred 45 years ago in 1967. I remember it well. All-time record heat that summer baked the entire western U.S. for weeks on end. Wells went dry. There were many fires.

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 16 afternoons in 1967 with scorching temperatures at or above 100 degrees in town. There were 45 days with 'Sholeh' readings of 90 degrees or higher. By comparison, Randy and I are forecasting just 2 or 3 afternoons this upcoming summer season near or above 100 degrees in the Coeur d'Alene region. The 118-year normal is one afternoon near or above the century mark and 21 days in the 90s between June 21 and Sept. 23. We should see about 25 'Sholeh Days' in 2012.

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 25 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, dry summer six years ago had 38 'Sholeh Days,' well above the normal of 21 such hot days. Also, there were four straight days of 100-degree plus sweltering heat from July 21-24, 2006, peaking at 104 degrees on July 23.

Get that air conditioner ready. The 'BIG HEAT' is coming!


May was the first month of 2012 with below normal rainfall in the region. We gauged 2.06 inches during the 31-day span. That was .31 inches below the average precipitation in Coeur d'Alene since 1895 of 2.37 inches. Last May, in 2011, was much wetter than normal at a whopping 3.92 inches.

We had only 8 days during May with measurable precipitation including the 1.13 inches we received on May 21, more than half the entire month's total in just 24 hours.

We saw just two thunderstorms during May compared with the normal of five storms. There was a 'trace' of snow on May 1.

We had 15 percent more hours of sunshine this May than normal at 219 hours compared with 186 hours during the typical May.

The month's highest temperature on Player Drive was 87 degrees on May 14. The lowest temperature was a sub-freezing 30 degrees on May 11. The average (mean) temperature was 53 degrees, exactly normal for May since 1895.

Longer-term, the next two weeks will be a bit cooler and wetter than usual overall, but we still see a warmer and drier weather pattern developing by mid to late June that will produce afternoon highs locally in the mid to upper 80s and, possibly, even the lower 90s away from the lakes.

The summer of 2012 still looks to be the warmest such season since 2006. Both Randy Mann and I see lots of 'Sholeh Days' at or above 90 degrees, especially in the 30-day span from mid-July through mid-August.

Total precipitation this summer should be well below normal. Most of the thunderstorm activity should occur mainly to the north and east of us over the mountains.

The weather for the late August 2012 NORTH IDAHO FAIR AND RODEO still looks good, warm and sunny with just a slight chance of an afternoon or evening thundershower. Temperatures, fortunately, shouldn't be quite as hot as in 2011.

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

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