AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the hottest summer in Austin record-keeping history continues, we are breaking down three ways this persistent heat could come to an end — and when.

On Wednesday, Camp Mabry tallied its 54th 100° day of the year and 19th consecutive day of triple-digit heat. We continue to climb through the record books as 32 of the last 33 days in Austin have featured temperatures of 100° or higher.

Preliminary data from the State Climatologist indicates the entire state of Texas may have just experienced its hottest April-July on record.

How did it get so hot in Texas this summer?

A long-term drought brought on by a rare three-year La Niña pattern has dried Central Texas’ soil to extreme drought levels. Dry soil gets hotter than wet soil, so drought exacerbates daytime heat.

Long-term rain deficits are exceeding 20 inches across much of the viewing area, including Austin.
Long-term rain deficits are exceeding 20 inches across much of the viewing area, including Austin.

We are also operating off a warmer baseline temperature due to climate change. Austin’s average July temperature has warmed by nearly 4° since 1970, and Camp Mabry now averages roughly twice as many 100° days as just 10 years ago.

For months, Texas has been plagued by a stagnant ridge of high pressure. This creates a heat dome over the state, with sinking air making it difficult to produce rain.

But since the hot, dry weather cannot last forever, let’s talk about three ways this could end.

Option 1: Moving the dome

The ridge of high pressure moves.

The First Warning Weather team is seeing signs the heat dome could migrate northward in mid-to-late August, opening the door for rain showers from the Gulf of Mexico and milder temperatures. But computer models disagree, and this is not a sure bet.

Option 2: Hurricane season starts in Texas

Rain from a tropical system.

If the ridge of high pressure migrates northward away from Texas, we would be placed in an easterly flow aloft which could steer a tropical storm or hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico toward the Texas coastline. One dose of flooding rain from a tropical system could mean we do not hit 100° again all year. This happened in August 2017 after Hurricane Harvey brought Austin nearly 6 inches of rain.

Option 3: Seasonal temperature changes

We have to wait for the seasons to change.

In a worst-case scenario, the stubborn heat dome stays over Texas through the remainder of the summer, insulating us from significant rainfall and keeping temperatures hotter than normal. On average, we see our first decent cold front on or around Sept. 21. After that time, 100° temperatures are rare.

Barring a change in the high pressure ridge or a Texas hurricane strike, we may be in store for a lot more heat this summer. Even as summer turns to fall, we expect La Niña conditions to continue, leading to overall hotter and drier than normal weather.