Virginia’s 2020 summer in review: Hot & dry first half, then wet & cooler second half

It was a tale of two summers this year in the Commonwealth

Tale of two summers in 2020 in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s summer in 2020 had a little something for everyone, as a hot and dry start to the summer flipped to a cool and wet pattern for the second half of the season.

June and July brought drought concerns and scorching heat. Richmond International Airport had the second longest streak of 90+ degree temperatures in recorded history. The streak of 90+ degree temperatures lasted 25 days, from July 10 to August 3. The only time we had a longer streak of 90+ degree heat was 25 years ago, lasting 27 days from July 11 to August 6, 1995.

The heat wave from mid July to early August was the 2nd longest stretch of 90+ degree heat in recorded history in Richmond.
The heat wave from mid July to early August was the 2nd longest stretch of 90+ degree heat in recorded history in Richmond. (Source: WWBT)

Jeremy Hoffman at the Science Museum of Virginia pointed out that this summer was the 8th warmest June through August period in recorded history in Virginia, and the warmest one since 2016. The hottest on record was 2010.

Due to global warming, we can expect these hot summers to continue with greater frequency and intensity. The long term trend is for temperatures to increase by 0.1 degree Celsius each decade.

The graph below shows the average temperatures for June through August in Virginia over the past 100 years. Notice the steady increase in temperatures since the late 1960s, and that Virginia summers are now hotter than at any other point in recorded history.

The average temperature for June through August in Virginia has steadily increased since the late 1960s.
The average temperature for June through August in Virginia has steadily increased since the late 1960s. (Source: NOAA)

A strong Bermuda high pressure center brought the persistent heat and dry weather from June to July. Areas northwest of Richmond were abnormally dry for a period of time from June into July. The month of July finished 3.6 degrees hotter than average but 1.71 inches below average in rainfall.

In early August, the weather pattern started to change with the arrival of Hurricane Isaias on August 3rd into August 4th. The biggest impacts from Isaias were felt along the coastal areas of Virginia, where winds gusted above 60 mph and several tornadoes were confirmed, including an EF-2 in the Northern Neck. NBC12 tracked the tornadoes as they struck early on the morning of August 4.

On Saturday, August 14, a slow moving frontal boundary brought extreme rainfall amounts to Chesterfield County and into Petersburg/Colonial Heights. There were numerous reports of flooding and water rescues.

Richmond officially received 15.34 inches of rain in August, which was 10.68 inches above average. That was the second wettest August on record. August finished 1.7 degrees warmer than average despite the rain.

August 2020 was the second wettest August on record in Richmond. It came in just shy of the wettest August ever back in 2004, the year Gaston brought flooding rains to Virginia.
August 2020 was the second wettest August on record in Richmond. It came in just shy of the wettest August ever back in 2004, the year Gaston brought flooding rains to Virginia. (Source: WWBT)

The first three weeks of September have been a little wetter than average, but also a little cooler than average. The last few days have been well below average, with high temperatures in the 60s.

What will autumn bring? Stay tuned, NBC12 will have a fall preview blog up on our website on Tuesday with a look at what to expect for the next three months.

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