A summer for the ages in Wichita

No matter how you slice it, local weather officials say, this was a rare summer for Wichita.

And not just because 2011 broke a 75-year-old record for most 100-degree days. According to the National Weather Service, this summer also set the all-time record for average high temperature for the three-month period ending Aug. 31.

The average of 98.3 bested the previous mark of 98.1 set in 1980.

“These records go back a long ways,” to 1888, said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service. “To attain any kind of record…is a pretty big deal, and it’s rare.”

At 85.2, this summer fell one-tenth of a degree short of matching 1934 and 1936 for highest average temperature. That figure combines the high and low temperatures for the day.

The previous record for most 100-degree days was set in 1936.

“That’s the interesting thing,” Lawson said. “There were years in the Dust Bowl that weren’t as hot as this year was.”

To set the record for most 100-degree days, 2011 had to first pass 1980 and then 1936 – and by one telling measure, those two summers still outpace this year.

There were 19 days this summer with temperatures of at least 105. While that number is substantial, Lawson said, it falls well short of 1980′s total of 29. There were 22 such days in 1936.

Put another way, 1980 had nearly a month’s worth of days when the temperature was at least 105.

“That’s a lot,” Lawson said.

One thing this summer demonstrated, Lawson said, is the amount of interest there is in climate data. The weather service fielded numerous calls and e-mails from residents interested in temperatures and other climate details.

“I didn’t realize there were that many,” he said, “but there are.”