August heat wave set records in parts of Kansas

Manhattan hit hottest temperature recorded, at 115 degrees

By: - September 8, 2023 2:00 pm
A thermometer measures hot temperatures

Heat records were set across Kansas last month as both temperatures and humidity soared. (Getty Images)

Intolerable heat and humidity that hovered over Kansas last month set daily maximum temperature records across the state and rivaled all-time highs.

The heat that drove readings into the 110s and heat indices even higher served as a preview of what could become even more severe and frequent weather events as the effects of climate change worsen. 

“This is an extreme event, but it’s not a one-off,” said Jason Furtado, an associate professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. “These are things that, unfortunately, we’re going to have to be contending with.”

In late August, a “heat dome” or high pressure system, sat over the central U.S. for days on end, bringing unrelenting heat and humidity that fogged up windows and drove the heat index in Lawrence to 134 degrees. The average high temperature in Kansas on Aug. 19 spiked at 105 degrees, and several sites across the state climbed into the 110s. 

The hottest temperature recorded that week in Kansas was on Aug. 19, when Manhattan reached 115 degrees, the highest maximum temperature ever recorded at that site, which is part of the Kansas Mesonet, a network of weather stations across the state. Manhattan was one of three sites that recorded its highest temperature of all time between Aug. 19 and 25. 

The all-time high temperature recorded in Kansas came during the Dust Bowl, when Alton and Fredonia hit 121 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. 

While not the hottest ever, the August heat wave was striking because of the humidity that drove up heat indices — a measure of how hot the air feels because of the humidity. 

The water-vapor like air can be perilous for human health. 

Bryan Beaver, EMS physician advisor at the University of Kansas Health System, said in an interview during the heatwave that doctors were seeing a surge of patients with heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. 

“I would say that this is definitely one of the worst we’ve had — certainly in a few years,” Beaver said. 

The National Weather Service reported the August heat wave resulted in the most consecutive days with maximum temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in more than a decade in Wichita and Salina. 

The heat index in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, reached more than 115 degrees for five straight days, breaking the previous three-day record set in 1995. 

Matthew Sittel, assistant climatologist, said Cherokee County in southeast Kansas saw heat indices above 105 degrees for a week straight. 

“If I’m going to pick the place that I don’t want to be, that would be the one,” he said. “… The cumulative effects of being subjected to those extremes are potentially lethal.”

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.