Kids from kindergarten to college are heading back to school, marking the end of their summer, but Austin will see no relief from the heat for quite some time. Forecasters predict more triple-digit days ahead and hot, dry weather lingering into September.
The National Weather Service expects temperatures to top the 100-degree mark Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which would mean at least 45 days of triple-digit heat for the meteorological summer that ends Aug. 31.
That’s already more than last year, when Austin saw 42 such days at its main weather station at Camp Mabry, data show.
Overall, 2017 turned out to be the hottest year on record, beating out even 2011, when the city experienced an exceptional 90 triple-digit days and unrelenting drought.
University of Texas meteorology lecturer Troy Kimmel said he doesn’t expect this year to beat that record because the 2018 winter and spring were cooler than normal. But this summer is certainly shaping up to be hotter than last summer, he said.
So far, the average temperature this summer is 87.4 degrees, or 1.3 degrees hotter than last summer, when the average temperature was 86.1 degrees, records show.
“We still have 11 days to go, but all indications are that through the month of August will be more of the same,” Kimmel said. “There is very little doubt in my mind we are going to end up with one of the warmest summers.”
Wednesday is expected to hit 103, Thursday 102 and Friday 100, according to the weather service. The heat index — which is how hot it feels when humidity is considered — could top 106.
“Clear skies allow us to heat up pretty good during the day,” weather service meteorologist Ethan Williams said. “Heading into the weekend, there is really no chance for rain, but some cloud cover returns, which will keep the temperatures at bay. By at bay, I mean below 100 degrees for the weekend.”
Next week’s forecast shows highs in the upper 90s and no rain expected, continuing a drying trend this summer that has worsened drought conditions throughout Texas.
Austin has a rainfall deficit of 3.87 inches at Camp Mabry and 7.41 inches at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for the year.
The city has seen little in the way of heavy rain this summer, with only a few isolated storms dropping a few inches of rain in the metro area, but nothing sustained and not enough to moisten the ground or fill the Highland Lakes, including Lake Travis, which is almost 9 feet below normal, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.
“A quick shot of 3 to 4 inches is not nearly as good as 2 or 4 inches spread out over a couple days,” Kimmel said. “That at least gives us the opportunity to have it percolate into the soils.”
Williamson County got doused with about 2 inches of rain Monday evening, but none made its way into Austin.
Meteorologists have been eyeing the tropics to see if a cyclone could bring much-needed rainfall to Texas, but the Atlantic Ocean has been especially quiet this year. No signs of a looming hurricane might be good for those remembering the destruction from Harvey last year, but bad when considering the state’s drought picture.
Only 22 percent of Texas is drought-free, compared with 90 percent this time last year, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows.
“We’ve just got to get in the fall and see our first rainfall,” Kimmel said.