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Austin's blistering summer weather of 2022 so far, explained in four charts

Roberto Villalpando
Austin American-Statesman

Before anyone says, "Summer doesn't officially start until the solstice on June 21," let's be honest: Summer in Austin arguably started in May, when we had our first temperature reading of 100 degrees on May 21 and 16 other days that month with high temperatures at or above 97 degrees.

But summer is more than just hot days — in Central Texas, it can mean a lack of needed rainfall, too. In many ways, this year resembles 2011, a historically arid year that not only logged more 100-degree days than any other year, but also witnessed a spate of dangerous wildfires because of the dry vegetation.

Here is a breakdown of Austin's summer of 2022 in four charts:

It's been really hot for a while in Austin

Since April 1 in Austin, data as of June 17 from the National Weather Service show that daytime high temperatures were:

  • Below normal on nine days: Of those, five were below normal by 5 degrees or more.
  • Above normal on 66 days. Of those, 49 days were 5 degrees or more above normal, and 21 of those were 10 degrees or more above normal.
  • At normal on three days. That's only about 4% of all days.

More fun:Your summer guide to things to do in Austin and Central Texas

Here are more stats to consider:

  • April's average temperature of 73.7 degrees made it Austin's sixth-warmest April ever.
  • May ended up being Austin's warmest on record, with an average temperature of 82.3 degrees, which was 1.7 degrees higher than the next-warmest May (in 2018 and 1996).
  • June's average temperature as of Tuesday is about 87.7 degrees. That's about 5.2 degrees hotter than normal for this point in the month.

Rain wavers between rare and sparse in Austin

Besides the triple-digit temperatures and an elevated risk of heat-related illnesses, another real concern for Austin is the lack of rain.

Precipitation in February helped push accumulated rainfall totals above normal after an especially dry January. But the spring months of March, April and May delivered only a fraction of their normal rainfall amounts.

Austin's annual rainfall total at this time of the year normally is around 17.6 inches.

With the year half over, Austin's main weather station at Camp Mabry has recorded only about 10.45 inches of rain since Jan. 1 — and about 45% of that total fell during four days, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.

How bad will summer get in Austin?:Drought, extreme heat, disaster risks just getting started

It could be worse in Austin — and it has been

Data last week from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a consortium of academic and government researchers, show the Austin metro area's five counties — Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell — experiencing conditions from abnormally dry to extreme drought.

The portion of the state affected by drought increased slightly from 88.3% the previous week to about 91.4%, and the area of exceptional drought — the most severe level of drought — is in 16.8% of the state and sits near the western borders of Williamson, Travis and Hays counties.

Texas, though, is in better shape now than it was in 2011 at this point in the year. Back then about 98% of the state was in drought, with about 64.8% of Texas in exceptional drought.

Looking more like 2008 than 2011 for Austin weather?

The nine consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures we had this month was the longest such hot streak since August 2020, when Austin had 20 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures.

The current forecast calls for at least another week of 100-degree days in Austin.

Triple-digit temperatures, though, are more common in July and August — not June — which is partly why the highest number of consecutive days with 100-degree weather in Austin is 27, a record set from July 17 to Aug. 12, 2011.

But the June record for such days is 20, set in 2008, making that year's June the warmest ever in Austin. Like this year, 2008 saw its first triple-digit temperature as early as May.

On Tuesday, we could have our 15th day of 100-degree weather in June, which is a particularly rare feat for Austin. Fifteen days of triple-digit temperatures in June is more such days than we had in all of 2021.

If you look at all of the city’s weather records, which go back to the late 1890s, only six other years have had Junes with at least 10 days of triple-digit temperatures — and four of those years were in the 2000s, as the effects of climate change have become more apparent.