Why Baton Rouge has had the hottest June, July since 1930

BATON ROUGE — Over the next several days, the high temperatures in the Baton Rouge area will reach triple digits, bringing the threat of heat-related illnesses and other adverse environmental conditions.

Baton Rouge’s temperatures have been hitting triple digits for weeks now.

Warnings state that it’s dangerous conditions with heat index values up to 115. Extreme heat and humidity will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.

Hottest June and July in Baton Rouge

According to a tool state climatologists use to track weather data, 2023 has produced the warmest average temperatures in June and July since 1930.

The average temperature in July 2023 was 87.8 degrees. The second warmest July was in 1960 at 85.6 degrees.

“July 2023 broke the previous record by 2.2 degrees. That’s a lot,” said LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Richard J. Russell Professor and Louisiana State Climatologist Barry Keim. “Normally, you break a record by a 10th or two-tenths of a degree. Here, we’re beating it by 2.2 degrees. That’s crazy. That just goes to show you how insanely hot July has been.”

Keim said an explanation for the extreme summer temperatures is a combination of factors.

“The climate is always changing,” he said. “What’s going on right now is clearly a combination of what we call anthropogenic climate change stuff that all greenhouse gases were putting in the atmosphere, compounded by this current El Nino, which has worldwide impacts on weather.”

El Nino is a climate pattern that starts with warm water building up in the tropical Pacific west of South America. It might last a few months or a couple of years.

During El Niño, Keim said there isn’t as much cold water from the Atlantic Ocean that overturns in the ocean basin. That cold water helps keep the sea surface temperatures relatively cool. During El Niño, that cold water isn’t happening, so a wide area over the Tropical Pacific becomes abnormally warm.

He said that energy from the Tropical Pacific radiates into the atmosphere, disrupting weather patterns worldwide.

“When we’re looking at the globe, we’re looking at really warm temperatures for the whole globe. Partly because the sea surface temperatures are so warm over the Pacific Ocean, but it’s changed the jet stream’s location and many other things, leading to some odd patterns forming across the United States,” Keim explained. “One of which is this dome of high pressure. We can’t exactly attribute the dome of high pressure here to El Niño, but it kind of has his fingerprints on it. You know that because it does disrupt all these circulation patterns. And this is a kind of an unusual circulation pattern for us to be dealing with right now.”

Keim added that July 2023 saw only 2.23 inches of rain compared to 9.30 in July 2022. Based on the data, the average amount of precipitation in July is 6.04 inches.

“If you don’t have air conditioning, these are some tough times because not only are the average temperatures going up, but what’s happening is the minimum temperature are up too,” Keim said. “People don’t understand how important cooling off overnight is to adapting. If you don’t have air conditioning, and you wake up in the morning, and the low temperature is 80 degrees as opposed to the 72 it’s supposed to be, that’s a lot of extra heat stress that you have that your body has to absorb.”

Some precautions to take include drinking plenty of fluids, staying in an air-conditioned room, staying out of the sun, and checking up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles. The Weather Channel says to take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening.

Symptoms of heat-related illnesses

  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include muscle pain or spasms; cold, pale, clammy skin; tiredness or weakness and dizziness; and headache and fainting. 
  •   Seek medical attention for heat exhaustion if you’re throwing up and/or if your symptoms last longer than one hour. 
  •   High body temperature; hot and red or dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; confusion; and fainting or loss of consciousness.
  •   If someone is experiencing heat stroke, call 911 immediately, move the person to a cooler place, loosen clothes, and cool the person quickly by wetting or applying ice to the neck, armpits, and groin areas. Do not give the person anything to drink.

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