El Paso’s average temperature this summer was a half-degree warmer than any previous summer on record, smashing a record that stood since 1994.
The average temperature in El Paso between June and August – which meteorologists use as a proxy for summer in record keeping – surpassed 88 degrees for the first time ever. The season saw 60 days of 100-plus temperatures, including a record-shattering 44 days in a row from mid-June through the end of July.
As climate change has raised temperatures across the globe, El Paso’s summer temperatures have shot up, especially over the last quarter century. But this summer’s heat was even more extreme – the average temperature in July was almost 3 degrees warmer than any other month in 137 years of El Paso weather records.
To better understand what happened this summer – and what might happen in the future – El Paso Matters turned to Jason Laney, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in El Paso/Santa Teresa. He brought in his colleagues David Hefner, the lead forecaster and climate focal point, and Connor Dennhardt, a lead forecaster.
The interview is lightly edited for clarity.
Question: El Paso just had its hottest summer on record. What the heck happened?
National Weather Service: June was near to slightly above normal and July and August were way above normal. The mean North American monsoon high position was a bit closer to right over the Borderland than normal (in a typical monsoon it should be located to our north over southern Colorado). Probably more important, 500mb heights (basically pressure reading in the middle part of the atmosphere) were well above normal for July.
Q: We set a lot of heat records in the past three months. Is there one data point in particular that just makes you say “wow”?
NWS: The biggest “wow” record was probably six consecutive days of record highs broken between July 16 and 21. The 111-degree high on July 19 was the second warmest ever for the month and broke the daily record by 4 degrees.
Q: Will the summer of 2023 still be the hottest summer on record 20 years from now? Or put another way, was this summer just freakishly hot, or a harbinger of things to come because of climate change?
NWS: Quick answer … who knows? But seriously, simply looking at temperature trends over the last half century, it is easy to see a rapid rise in temperatures not only locally, but globally as well. This would lead us to believe that we will eventually see other summers that will rival what we have seen so far this summer. However, I (Laney) counter this statement by saying that I don’t see every summer to come being this hot. Nature has a means of applying syncs and balances, and as a result we will still see some variability in temperatures in future summers.
Q: Average summer temperatures so far in this century are 3 degrees warmer than what we saw in the second half of the 20th century. Can we say how much of this is due to climate change, how much to the urban heat island effect, and how much to other factors? (Urban heat islands are created when cities replace natural land cover with pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. That creates temperatures that are higher than in nearby areas with more natural ground cover.)
NWS: Without a doubt, some of this longer-term warming trend is tied to climate change. After all, the fact that we see a warming trend is the very definition of a change in climate conditions (hence the phrase climate change). But we can also attribute a bit of the warming to the urban island effect as well, especially when we are looking at numbers for our larger population bases such as El Paso and Las Cruces compared to nearby areas that have less population.
Q: What are important steps we should be looking at to mitigate the summer impacts of climate change in El Paso – both at the individual level and at the community level?
Laney: If I am being honest, the answer to this question is beyond my expertise level. The biggest impact that I can have outside of taking personal responsibility to be more energy efficient is to use my meteorological knowledge and access to climate resources to continue to share what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the NWS are working towards with our efforts to build a climate-ready nation. Here is a link to the current Climate Ready plan as outlined in NOAA’s FY 22-26 Strategic Plan.
Weather records broken in summer 2023
- 44 straight days above 100. Previous record was 23 in 1994.
- 105.1 degree average high temperature for the month of July. Previous record was 101.8 in 1980.
- 91.6 degree average total temperature for a month in July. Previous record was 88.9 in June 1994 and July 2020.
- 31 days with high temperatures of 105 or more. Previous record was 27 in 1980.