8 July 2018

Seems The Sun Has Melted Southern California

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Well, apologies to Albert Hammond (Google it young people) but I’ve been searching for words to describe the heat event in Southern California yesterday. Fritz Coleman, KNBC’s meteorologist called it astonishing, and I used astounding. Trust me, words fail to describe the magnitude of this heat event.

Van Nuys set an all-time record high of 117ºF which broke their daily record by 18 degrees!! So did Burbank and UCLA (NWA Graphic below is in error they hit 108º)

The image below is ground temperatures from infrared sensors from a NASA polar-orbiting satellite that passed over just after midday Friday.

I’ve been quiet for the last two weeks with a really bad summer cold ( Let’s just say I had enough Sudafed in my bloodstream to start a meth lab), but what follows are facts and some science about the weather and climate over the last 14 days or so. 

It’s Been Brutal!

Heat waves happen in summer, but climate change is making them hotter, longer, and more likely. The Friday event in California was indeed amazing. It was a little less hot today but still brutal, and an overnight fire near Goleta, outside Santa Barbara, burned several homes. 

Beautiful downtown Burbank melted Friday. (Young folks will need to look up that reference as well- hint google Laugh-In.)

A good summary of the event in California from my buddy Dennis Mersereau is worth reading. Dennis is a great writer and always gets the science right.

Like Walking Around in A Dog’s Mouth

This same heat wave was over the eastern seaboard last week and it was characterized by some of the most incredible dew point readings I’ve seen. It smashed heat index records in Canada, and here in Maryland our dew point reached 79ºF.

That’s Persian Gulf humidity!

Greg Carbin at NOAA posted the image below on Twitter showing how moist the air was over the east last week and I wonder, is this is a record for a 6 day period in the Eastern USA?

Look at the heat index on the 4th of July. This image again is courtesy of Greg Carbin who posted it on Twitter.

Any ideas why the highest heat index values were in Iowa and Illinois? I’m pretty sure of the answer, but you’ll have to read to the end for the answer. (Ok, so that cold left me grouchy??).

In Ontario and Quebec last week, the heat broke a slew of records with some of the highest heat index values ever seen in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The ratio of record highs to record lows has dramatically increased in all of Canada and this is due to Arctic amplification.  The higher latitudes are indeed warming faster than the lower latitudes. Meteorologist Guy Walton keeps track of these and you can see the numbers here.

Intense heat like this is something that we will see more of as greenhouse gases rise, and there’s a lot of talk about how this event is a taste of things to come. Here is some science about that from some experts:

The internet woo-woo land (otherwise known as Twitter) is full of posts that scream, “It’s summertime, it gets hot!” This is true, and a kernel of truth makes for good propaganda, but the facts are much more nuanced. Yes, it gets hot, but increasing greenhouse gases make it more likely to get really hot more often and stay that way. That’s not an opinion, it’s already being seen. The quote below is from a paper by four top climate experts including Dr. Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf:

In summary, our results suggest that the recent record temperature years are roughly 600 to 130,000 times more likely to have occurred under conditions of anthropogenic than in its absence. Our findings thus underscore the profound impact that anthropogenic forcing has already had on temperature extremes.

Also, see this paper by Dr. Michael Mann, and other top climate experts, published in the AGU’s Geophysical Research Letters. 

Ok, now the answer to the high dew points in Illinois and Iowa. My daughter is always telling me that corn is evil. I think in this case, she may be right. Oh, and next time someone on social media gives you the old “Humans can’t change the climate!” myth, show them that. They won’t believe it, but it’s the audience that counts. Some people still have good critical thinking skills and can adjust their worldview to new facts.