Climate Crisis

Statistics Show August 2022 was Hottest Ever in R.I.


Anyone who tried to grow anything this summer knows it was a brutally hot summer here in Rhode Island.

While the headlines featured record-breaking heat in the Northwest, raging wildfires in California, and a heat dome in the Southeast, Rhode Island did not escape record-breaking temperatures.

The average maximum temperature for Providence County was the highest ever, with records going back to 1895.

The average maximum temperature for the month of August from 1900 through 2022. The black line shows the 20th-century average, 78.5oF.
Chart by Roger Warburton, data from NCEI.

For Providence County, the average maximum temperature for August 2022 was the highest ever recorded at 85.4oF, which is 6.9oF above the 20th-century average of 78.5oF.

Providence was not alone. Records were broken, or nearly broken, all across Rhode Island.

It is hard to blame a temperature rise in any particular year on climate change without significant analysis. However, the data for all of Rhode Island since 1900 is illuminating.

The difference from the average 20th-century temperature for R.I. counties for the month of August from 1900 through 2022.
Chart by Roger Warburton, data from NCEI

Temperatures fluctuate from year to year. For the first half of the 20th century, August temperatures fluctuated within two degrees of the average. This is shown as the blue shading in the lower half of the figure. (Minus 2 to plus 2 around zero, which represents the 20th century average.)

Towards the end of the 20th century, August temperatures started rising rapidly, which is shown by the colors in the top half of the chart becoming more red.

All across Rhode Island, August 2022 was nearly seven degrees above the 20th-century average.

The punishing heat wave this summer represents what scientists expect as the state warms – more frequent, longer lasting, and more dangerous heat waves.

The impacts of record temperatures are not equitably distributed. Heat waves threaten those whose houses aren’t well insulated and those who don’t have air conditioning: characteristics of old houses and apartment buildings in Rhode Island.

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that heat waves threaten people with asthma and other respiratory issues. Many consecutive days of blistering heat, in combination with health issues and a lack of air conditioning, can be deadly for the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders – children, elderly, and the sick.

The August heat wave represents the future. We should prepare for more disruptive and dangerous events.

August 2022 temperature data from NOAA National Centers for Environmental information (NCEI), Climate at a Glance: County Mapping, Average Temperature, published September 2022, retrieved on Sept. 19, 2022 from

“Heat Waves and Climate Change: The Effects of Worsening Heat on People, Communities and Infrastructure,” Union of Concerned Scientists.


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