Alexandra Pope, staff writer
July 23, 2011 — Thursday wasn't the hottest day in Toronto's history, but it was a record breaking day to say the least. How did the city cope?
The recent spell of sweltering hot weather peaked in Toronto on Thursday and the city managed to shatter some impressive records.
Temperatures hit 37.9°C, feeling like 49 with humidity, making it the hottest July 21 ever as well as the warmest day in July. Additionally, the humidex at XTO (University of Toronto's downtown campus) was 51 at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
However, meteorologists say not to put too much stock in the heat records.
“You have to put records into some context because a daily record high doesn't mean as much as you think it does,” says Chris Scott, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.
“It's like saying you're the smartest kid in all of grade two in your school and that's great, but when you get to university, you're going to find there's a lot of other smart kids out there. Now if you set an all-time monthly record high, that's more impressive. That's like saying you're the smartest kid in your whole school board.”
Depending on which records you go by, the city of Toronto was also on the brink of reaching its hottest day ever on Thursday.
“Pearson (International Airport) tends to be our anchor point in the Greater Toronto Area for records, observations and forecasts,” Scott explains.
The highest temperature ever recorded at Pearson was 38.3°C on August 25, 1948. However, Pearson only began keeping records in 1937 -- a year after an all-time heat record was set in downtown Toronto.
“We sometimes forget about the climate records that predate Pearson,” Scott says.
July 7-14, 1936 saw the most extreme heat wave in the region's recorded history. At the time, weather data was collected at a number of stations in and around Toronto, including the University of Toronto's St. George campus, Agincourt and Georgetown.
“Most stations I looked at had temperatures close to or above 32°C for these eight days, with the three-day stretch from July 8-10 seeing the highest temperatures ever recorded,” Scott says.
During that period, the U of T station reported a high of 40.6°C -- the hottest temperature ever recorded in Toronto.
The heat was slightly less oppressive on Friday, although temperatures still climbed into the 30s.
Toronto actually reached official heat wave status -- three consecutive days with temperatures above 32°C.
With files from Andrea Stockton