Economic losses during the hot, dry summer of 1980 were estimated at $16 billion. Despite these substantial economic losses, analyses of historical (1895–1980) monthly temperature and precipitation data across the 48 contiguous United States indicate that conditions could easily have been worse. Much more hostile conditions have existed in the past, particularly during the 1930's and the 1950's. However, the summer of 1980 does stand out from the past two decades as an extreme anomaly across the southern and southeastern United States.
Analyses of Palmer's (1965) drought severity index, Paimer's soil moisture abnormality index, and values of precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration are used in the assessment of drought. Monthly mean temperature and population weighted cooling degree days as related to electrical energy consumption are used to assess the summer heat wave of 1980.