Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 21: 100-degree heat indexes expected in 34 states today

"...With the number of days of extreme heat and humidity of the current heat wave, it may be more significant and impact a larger area than the deadly 1995 heat wave." - story below on the unusual duration & intensity of America's heatwave.


17 states above 100 F.
40 states above 90 F.

34 states expected to experience a heat index above 100 today.

"...Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma are coping with their driest nine-month stretch since 1895. Yes, it has been a very hot summer after one of the most extreme-weather springs on record. It’s time to face the fact that the weather isn’t what it used to be." - article below from climate scientist Heidi Cullen in the New York Times.

"...The National Research Council explained in a recent report that heat waves are expected to become "more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting" in the United States and around the globe as a result of human-induced climate change." - from a story below on media coverage of the heatwave as another symptom of a warming climate.

WeatherNation (new 24/7 national cable channel) now available on Facebook. The complete Reuters press release is here.

Heatwave Sweeps Across the USA. Here's an excellent animation showing 90 and 100-degree heat spreading from east to west across the USA, courtesy of NOAA: "A shroud of high pressure has taken a foot-hold over the U.S. from the Plains to the Northeast, and with it has brought temperatures well into the 90's and 100's for half of the country. This animation shows the predicted daily high temperatures from NOAA's high resolution North American Model (NAM) from July 13-21, 2011."

Heat Wave Breaks Records Of Both Duration And Intensity. USA Today has more details on the remarkable bout of heat and humidity gripping the eastern 2/3rds of America: "Make no mistake: This blistering heat wave now gripping much of the country remains remarkable both for its intensity and duration. "With the number of days of extreme heat and humidity of the current heat wave, it may be more significant and impact a larger area than the deadly 1995 heat wave," AccuWeather meteorologist Jim Andrews said. Chicago was ground zero in the 1995 heat wave, he said, where the death toll was 750 over the four-day episode. This week's heat wave has killed at least 22 people across the USA, a death toll that remains a far cry from the carnage of 1995. It begs the question why. The main reasons appear to be more community outreach, better communication of heat warnings and danger and greater awareness, community leaders said. In Chicago, "we want to make sure the patient comes in and immediately gets back to a bed and right to a doctor," said Kaleem Malik, the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Saint Anthony Hospital. Everything else can wait, he said, such as taking down information or checking records. The city has seen no heat-related deaths yet in this heat wave, the Chicago Tribune reported."

Thursday Heat Index. The worst of the heat/humidity will break across the Dakotas and Minnesota, shifting east into the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and much of the east coast. The heat index may hit 100 as far north as Worcester, Massachusetts. In all 34 states are expected to see a heat index above 100 by Thursday afternoon. Map courtesy of Ham Weather.

Brief Respite From The Humidity in the Twin Cities. Today will be the only low-dew point day in sight. By Friday dew points return to the mid 70s, a shot at 80 degree dew points (again) by Saturday, again the middle of next week.

Sultry (Dangerous) Nights. You've heard the old (tired) cliche, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity?" Absolutely true. And it turns out that (unusually warm) nighttime lows turn out to be more stressful on the human body that extreme daytime heat. If lows don't dip below 80 at night, if people can't get any relief during the overnight hours, the stress goes up dramatically. In the wake of almost 900 heat-related deaths in Chicago during the deadly heatwave of July, 1995, researchers made a startling discovery: nighttime warmth is even more critical than daytime highs when computing how many people will be impacted by heat-related ailments. 80 seems to be a rough threshold - anything warmer than 80 pretty much insures a spike in heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Yes, nighttime lows matter.

Record High Minimums, July 19
St. Louis 81
Minneapolis 80
Moline, IL 80
Indianapolis 79
La Crosse, WI 79
Chicago (O’Hare) 78 (tie)
Eau Claire, WI 76 (tie)
East Rapid City, SD 75
Grand Forks, ND 75
Dubuque, IA 75
Rapid City, SD 73
Billings, MT 72
Glasgow, MT 71 (tie)

* photo courtesy of USA Today.

Record Highs, July 19
Dalhart, TX 102 (tie)
Corpus Christi, TX 98 (tie)
Dubuque, IA 97 (tie)
New Bern, NC 97 (tie)

Record Number of consecutive 100-Degree Days, set July 18
Tyler, TX: 21 consecutive days

* thanks to Julie Gaddy, a senior meteorologist with WeatherBug, for passing these records along.
Hottest Place On Earth? Will the 88 degree dew point Tuesday evening in Moorhead, Minnesota (possibly the highest dew point value ever measured in the USA, and one of the highest ever observed on the planet) hold up over time? Was there a problem with instrumentation? Surrounded by plants (giving off excess water?) The Grand Forks office of the NWS has more information on Tuesday evening's record event:

"Was Moorhead Minnesota one of the Hottest Places on Earth Tuesday afternoon? Based on data from the Moorhead Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), there was a period of time when the dew-point temperature reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit! Values this high are usually reserved for locations such as the Mexican Gulf Coast, Saudi Arabia or other extremely hot and humid places. But, was the dew-point actually that high? Going back and reviewing the data from the Moorhead Airport, it would appear at first blush the data is accurate. Accurate, but not representative. Verifying the data will take some time however. There are several reasons to question the precision of the dew-point sensor.

First: The AWOS is surrounded by Sugar Beets and Soy Beans - two of the most prodigious transpiring plants. Second, there was very heavy rainfall Tuesday morning across the region. This rain served to saturate the local soils and encourage plant growth. Plus, under the sensor is 4-6" high clover in flower (clover you would find in your yard, not the crop), with much ponding water within a few feet of the sensor as well. Third, when compared to the Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) at Fargo's Hector Field the maximum dew-point was 5 degrees lower, peaking at 83 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour only. (Below is a table comparing the Fargo ASOS and Moorhead AWOS for part of the day) In looking at the data from the surrounding stations,  several of the North Dakota Agricultural Network Stations (NDAWN) had similar readings. At face value, this supports the Moorhead dew-point of 88F. However, the NDAWN stations are located in such a way as to measure the moisture of the crop canopy environment, not the atmosphere. So, on the one hand if the dew-point did hit 88 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a Heat Index of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, it was not because of true meteorological effects but because of an agricultural bias. This makes the information, relative to official climatic sources, less representative, and should be used with caution.  While it is possible the Moorhead dew-point did reach 88 degrees Fahrenheit, it did so because the weather station is located in an agricultural field surrounded by water, or very wet soils, and crops that release a great deal of water vapor into the atmosphere. The sensor while measuring the moisture of a very local place, did not represent the free atmosphere as a whole. There are very specific rules and regulations dictating the location of weather equipment, the type of vegetation and distance from agricultural crops."

Sizzling Temperatures Cause Pavement To Buckle In Ankeny (eastern Iowa). An update from the Des Moines Register: "Extreme heat caused road buckling at the intersection of First Street and Ankeny Boulevard on Tuesday. City officials have temporarily fixed the problems to keep traffic moving. Heat pushed up the concrete and part of a steel storm sewer grate. A cold patch was applied to the hole. To report broken pavement, call the Ankeny Maintenance Facility between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 965-6481 or fill out the “Report a Pothole” form on the city’s website at In eastern Iowa, repairs are under way on a stretch of Interstate 380 after sizzling temperatures caused the pavement to buckle."

MG&E Reports New All-Time Record For Power Demand. Here's an update on the record heat gripping Wisconsin (and much of the nation), and the strain it's putting on power generation, from NBC15 in Madison, Wisconsin: "On Tuesday, Madison Gas and Electric set a new all-time record for electricity demand. It happened between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., surpassing a previous record set in July of 2006. And, we still have more days of heat to come. The hum of the AC is almost constant these days as households keep their air conditioners running to keep cool during dangerously hot temperatures. "On Sunday, we had the most power demanded from our customers for a single day on a Sunday," Steve Kraus of MG&E says. Monday night, 4000 Alliant Energy customers found themselves without power for three hours. A spokesperson says the outage was due to a bad cable coming out of a substation. It was not due to weather - and demand. "All of the last holdouts are running their air conditioners when it gets this hot so we do see an increase and it can put a strain on the system but again for us, we don't anticipate any issues," Steve Schultz with Alliant Energy says."

Chicago: "Hot & Foggy". Lake water temperatures in Lake Michigan are still in the 50s, air temperatures just inland from Naperville to Elgin close to 100, a 40-50 degree temperature extreme in the span of 20-30 miles, resulting in a thick, pea-soup fog Tuesday in the Windy City. Image courtesy of More details on Tuesday's freak fog event:

  • On one of the hottest days of the year, the Chicago Park District ordered a swim ban on all its beaches Tuesday because of visibility problems for lifeguards caused by dense fog.
  • An area of dense fog formed along the lake Tuesday morning after winds turned off the lake reducing the air temperature.
  • The reduced air temperature and high humidity levels make it conducive for fog to form.

River Receding, Leaving A Mess Behind. The has the details: "There's not much measurable relief yet from flooding at the lower end of the dam and reservoir system on the Missouri River. Gavins Point, the last of six dams dealing with the 2011 deluge, still was releasing water at a rate of 160,000 cubic feet per second Tuesday along the Nebraska border. That's more than twice the previous record, and the pace is scheduled to continue through the rest of July. But at Fort Peck in Montana, the most upstream dam and the closest to mountain snowmelt, the Monday inflow was only 25,000 cubic feet per second, about half of what it was four weeks ago. "I do believe we've gained the upper hand," said Jody Farhat, based in Omaha as chief of the Water Management Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Farhat also could calculate progress on Tuesday with releases from the three biggest flood control checkpoints."

Exploding Storm Sewer Lifts Car. Here's an amazing video clip from MSN: "A car is sent into the air after a geyser of water exploded from a sewer in Montreal. It's amazing to see the force there! "

U.S. Tornado Update: Top 5 states in "tornado reports" so far this year. Source: SPC.

1. AL-161
2. MS-136
4. MO-97
5. NC-89

Thursday Severe Threat. A few storms may exceed severe limits from Des Moines to Omaha, another severe risk area over northern New England, according to SPC.

Thursday Evening. The NAM/WRF model predicts a band of showers and T-storms from Detroit to Chicago and Omaha by late afternoon, more scattered storms from the Carolinas to Huntsville, Houston and south Florida. The west should be dry and seasonably warm.

"WeatherNation" Is Now Streaming On Facebook! If you're interested in seeing the live, 24/7 stream (better yet, uploading photos or videos of weather where you are) go to your Facebook account, do a search for "WeatherNation", the channel, click on "WNTV 24/7 Video Stream in the upper left, and you'll get a live look at what's going over the air right now.

New Weather Channel For A New Century. "WeatherNation" is the only live, 24/7 weather news and information channel streaming on Facebook. We're hoping you'll stop by, check in from time to time, tell your friends and weather enthusiasts, and send us some pics and video clips of the weather in your town. This is your channel - we hope to hear from you!

Snow Ski In Summer? Unreal. The Star Tribune has a story about a local ski resort considering year-round skiing in the Twin Cities. Details: "On a 100-degree day, this might sound like a pretty cool idea. Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area in Bloomington is considering laying synthetic snow on its slopes that would allow for year-round skiing, no matter how high the temperature. Hyland, where 70 percent of users are under age 17, would become just the nation's second ski area to use the fake snow. Some local ski area operators scoff at the idea, but it has made year-round skiing a reality in Virginia and several locations in Europe. Officials at the west suburban Three Rivers Park District, which operates Hyland, also are considering other new features for Hyland, including sailing through the air via zip-line and riding an alpine-style coaster down the hill. Other attractions could include climbing and swinging through a challenge course and trick-bouncing on trampolines with harnesses. Three Rivers wants to "engage youth in the outdoors, and this is one way we think can do it," said Cris Gears, park district superintendent. The new attractions would come at a cost of about $29 million, including structures, improvements and parking."

Bald Eagle Lands On Grave At U.S. Military Cemetery. This is pretty cool - talk about an amazing photo. Thanks to for passing this one along: "Frank Glick, an amateur photographer, captured this amazing image at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. He thought that the family of the veteran buried at that gravestone might like to have a copy, and did some research on Sgt. Maurice Ruch. Ruch, a veteran of World War II, was a US Army marksman who served in the Aleutian Islands and earned a Bronze Star. Then he went home, became an engineer and got married. John Tevlin of the Star Tribute spoke with Ruch’s widow, Vivian, and best friend, Jack Kiefner: I told Vivian that some cultures believe the eagle is a symbol, not only of patriotism and dignity, but a messenger between heaven and earth. She nodded solemnly. “I’d say the eagle had a very good eye when he landed on Maurie, and he was respected,” she said. “I miss him,” said Vivian as she picked up the photo. “He was a good man and a good provider.”

Forecast: REALLY Hot In Surprise. Screen-grab courtesy of WBKO-TV and Facebook. By all means please avoid the town of Surprise!

Mini-Fridge Beer Canon. For the guy who has everything (including WAY too much free time). The StumbleUpon video clip says it all.


What Just Happened?

Just when you think you've seen everything. I'm witnessing things I never thought I'd see: skiing on the 4th of July out west, the largest "exceptional" drought in NOAA's history, and outrageous temperature & moisture levels. For a few hours Tuesday evening the hottest reporting station on EARTH was Moorhead, Minnesota. A dew point of 88 made it feel like 134; new records for Minnesota.

A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, resulting in higher dew points & more fuel for severe storms & floods. Other factors may be contributing to these heat spikes, but what we're seeing is consistent with what climate scientists have been predicting for 20 years.

Research in the wake of the killer heatwave that left nearly 900 dead in Chicago in 1995 determined that 80-degree warmth at night puts more stress on people than extreme daytime warmth. If you can't get any relief at night - that's when heat ailments can escalate to dangerous levels.

Climate Stories...

The Sizzle Factor For A Restless Climate. Climate scientist Heidi Cullen (formerly of The Weather Channel) has a good overview of the "new normal" in this New York Times Op-Ed: "Enjoying the heat wave?The answer is probably no if you live in Abilene, Tex., where temperatures have been at or above 100 degrees for 40 days this summer. It’s been a little cooler in Savannah, Ga., where the mercury hit 90 or more for 56 days in a row. Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma are coping with their driest nine-month stretch since 1895. Yes, it has been a very hot summer after one of the most extreme-weather springs on record. It’s time to face the fact that the weather isn’t what it used to be. Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” 30-year averages of temperature and precipitation for about 7,500 locations across the United States. The latest numbers, released earlier this month, show that the climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up. For climate geeks like me, the new normals offer a fascinating and disturbing snapshot of a restless climate. The numbers don’t take sides or point fingers. They acknowledge both powerful natural climate fluctuations as well as the steady drumbeat of warming caused by roughly seven billion people trying to live and prosper on a small planet, emitting heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the process."

Is The Heat Index A "Liberal Government Conspiracy?" I detect a note of shrill desparation coming from some of the big-mouth, no-nothing radio "personalities" who love to advocate conspiracy theories, while understanding precious little about science. Yes, heat index is a vast, left-wing conspiracy to emphasize just how how hot it feels out there - and wind chill is a right wing scheme to dupe Americans into believing that climate change is a hoax. Got it. Joe Romm at Climate Progress has the (laughable) story: "Wikipedia:  “The heat index … combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature — how hot it feels….  The heat index was developed in 1978 … and was adopted by the National Weather Service a year later.” Rush Limbaugh:  They’re playing games with us on this heat wave, again. Even Drudge, drudge getting sucked in here.  Gonna be a 116 in Washington. No, it’s not.  It’s going to be a 100, maybe 99.  The heat index, manufactured by the government, they tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there.  116 -  When’s the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature?  It hasn’t been.  But it looks like they’re trying to get away with doing that now. Yes, the black helicopters are after Limbaugh and the whole country now.  Well, actually if there were UN helicopters, I’m sure they’d be white, since the black ones would just get too damn hot in this weather! In the real world, the heat index adds to the actual temperature the effect of humidity, which interferes with the body’s ability to perspire and carry away heat:  “When the relative humidity is high, the evaporation rate is reduced, so heat is removed from the body at a lower rate causing it to retain more heat than it would in dry air.”

Pursuading Climate Change Doubters With "Cool It". A new documentary may help to sway a few skeptics still on the fence, according to "A new documentary, Cool It, may be able to help some of us in our quest to settle arguments about climate change.  Most readers of this publication probably accept that climate change is a real phenomenon.  But there are still people out there, usually politically charged, who think climate change is nonsense. Although Cool It was released in theaters late last year, it recently screened at the Anthem Film Festival, part of FreedomFest 2011, in Las Vegas, NV – a libertarian gathering.  It was a surprise to see such a pro environmental documentary given the leanings of this particular event. Last year at FreedomFest 2010, a debate was held on whether or not global warming was a hoax.  A poll of the audience resulted in the 99% consensus that it was indeed a hoax, hence my surprise to stumble upon such a screening! Cool It assumes that global warming is real, but may not be as catastrophic as it is said to be. Furthermore, it critiques the fashionable plans of fixing the problem, namely cap and trade. Rather, Bjorn Lomborg is shown picking brains and brainstorming innovative ideas of how to stop and/or alleviate global warming. Lomborg also has a different take on how climate change has been presented to the public. “Fear has been ruling the climate debate.  It’s about time that we realize the current approach is broken,” says Lomborg. The FreedomFest crowd seemed a lot more receptive to Lomborg’s approach than that of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth."

Rep. Waxman Urges Energy Secretary Chu To Lead National Campaign To Educate Public About Climate Change: "Washington, DC—Today Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu urging his leadership in educating the public about the causes and dangers of climate change.  In the letter, Rep. Waxman states, “I ask you to investigate the disconnect that appears to be growing between the scientific and the public understanding of climate change.  I hope you will then decide to lead a national effort to ensure the public is fully and accurately informed about the science of climate change and its implications for human health and welfare.”

* full text of the letter is here.

It's Hot. But Only Fox News Talks About Global Warming When It's Snowing. Yes, the silence (from the professional skeptics, doubters and deniers) is deafening. No, there can't possibly be a link between the extreme heat and growing drought. That's another inconvenient coincidence, right? The swarm of tornadoes, record flooding, record snowfall out west, the dew point readings and heat indices off the scale? Another coincidence. Let's talk about climate change in the winter, when it's easier to laugh off. Media Matters has the story: "With an unusually intense heat wave sweeping the nation, Fox News has been silent on global warming, which scientists say makes heat waves like this one more likely. By contrast, Fox News repeatedly used winter storms to mock global warming -- one of several problems with Fox's coverage of climate change highlighted in a new mini-documentary by Media Matters Studios: Most flagrantly, Fox Nation and Fox News personalities Sean HannityGlenn BeckGretchen CarlsonSteve DoocyStuart Varney, and Eric Bolling all seized upon the February 2010 blizzard to mock Al Gore and suggest that the storm undermines the science supporting global warming. That same winter, Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon ordered the network's journalists to cast doubt on climate change data. In reality, that winter included "the eighth warmest December" since records began in 1880, the "fourth warmest" January, and the "six warmest" February according to global temperature data from NOAA. 2010 tied for the warmest year on record, and 2000-2009 was by far the warmest decade on record. Over the past week, Fox News has not mentioned human-induced climate change or global warming while reporting on or discussing the current heat wave, according to a search of Snapstream video and Nexis transcripts."

Climate Change Forcing Polar Bears To Swim Longer Distances. The story from Live Science: "Biologists are warning that warmer temperatures from climate change are forcing polar bears to swim longer distances to find stable sea ice, which is proving deadly for many of their cubs. Researchers following a group of adult polar bears found a 45 percent mortality rate among the cubs of those adults that swam 30 miles (48 kilometers) or more at a time, as compared with an 18 percent mortality rate among the cubs of other polar bears. And the rapid loss of sea ice is forcing these longer swims, the scientists said. "This research is the first analysis to identify a significant multi-year trend of increased long-distance swimming by polar bears," study researcher Geoff York, a World Wildlife Fund polar bear expert, said in a statement. "Prior research had only reported on single incidents." [Gallery: Polar Bears Swimming in the Arctic]"

Blame Congress. Another Op-Ed in the New York Times: "American Electric Power’s decision to shut down an ambitious experiment aimed at capturing greenhouse gases from a coal-fired power plant was a disappointing setback to efforts to control harmful global warming emissions from coal, among the world’s most abundant fuels. It was also a predictable result of Congress’s failure to enact climate change legislation that would have placed a price on emissions and given businesses compelling economic reasons to clean up their plants and develop new technologies. Without industrywide federal standards in place, state utility regulators would not have allowed A.E.P. to recoup its investment through higher prices, making the whole project untenable. Coal-fired power plants produce one-third of the nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide. Policy makers have other tools to help lower these greenhouse gas emissions, including regulations requiring more efficient plants. What they do not have is breakthrough technologies. The A.E.P. project, located at a 31-year-old coal-fired plant in West Virginia, was the country’s most advanced attempt to strip carbon dioxide from the flue gases and store it permanently underground in deep-rock formations under the plant. The company had completed a small pilot program, and the Energy Department had promised to pay for half the final $668 million bill. But A.E.P. would have been on the hook for the rest."