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Nation Overheated, But Nowhere Near Record Boiling Point

Marble Bar, Australia. (Image credit: Dreamstime.)

This summer, some cities have recorded temperatures of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) for more than a consecutive week, but they are nowhere close to catching the all-time record holder for the most 100 degree days in a row.

The country is boiling due to an oppressive heat wave that is lingering in the heartland. Oklahoma City has had only two days this month with temperatures cooler than 100 F. And they aren't alone: Heat advisories are in effect across the Great Plains. Across the country this month, nearly 700 heat records have been either tied or broken, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

But none of those records will match the all-time heat wave record. That weather record belongs to the town of Marble Bar in Western Australia. From Oct. 31, 1923 to April 7, 1924, the tiny town scorched with 160 consecutive days over 100 F, according Australia's Bureau of Meteorology.

Their average high temperature is more than 100 F for January, February, March, November and December (the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere). On average, Marble Bar has about 154 days of 100 F temperatures each year.

In the United States, Death Valley has come close to Marble Bar's record, with 154 consecutive days of at least 100 degrees F, in 2001.

Stubborn ridge

Thankfully, the weather in the U.S. heartland will eventually give way to cooler air, even if not anytime soon.

The atmospheric phenomenon fueling the hot weather is called a high-pressure ridge. This ridge is essentially a long area of high atmospheric pressure. These ridges often contain dry air, and block potentially cooling clouds and rain.

The high-pressure pattern has settled over the middle of the country. Cooler air hasn't been able to break through.

Sweaty cities

The heat wave is worst in places that have also been hit by severe drought. Because of the lack of rain, these cities have seen higher temperatures much earlier than usual.

Oklahoma City has already seen more than 20 100-degree days this year. Its yearly average is 12 100-degree days. On June 9, the thermometer hit 110 degrees F (43 degrees C), the city's highest temperature in 15 years. [Related: What's the Highest Temperature Ever Recorded in the U.S.? ]

"As wecontinue through July and August, we're probably going to set some records," said Daryl Williams of the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla.

Oklahoma City isn't alone in its suffering. Wichita, Kan., and Austin, Texas, have both surpassed their annual average of 100-degree days. Dallas is closing in on its average.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.