Monday, July 9, 2012

Heat wave and other weather and climate stories from Discovery News

Over at Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Higgs boson and heat wave edition), I took the week off from compiling stories from campuses on the campaign trail to trawl from one of my favorite commerical sources, Discovery News. Since they're an outfit that wants to draw eyeballs, they'll write on what they think will do exactly that. Last week, it was the heat wave. Here are the stories they wrote about the phenomenon.

Our Amazing Planet via Discovery News: Seriously, When Will the Heat End?
There's a small amount of good news for some of us.
Content provided by Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet
Fri Jul 6, 2012 03:39 PM ET
After an unusually oven-like June, the beginning of July has been sweltering, too. The heat didn't even take time off for Independence Day, with 262 daily high records tied or broken nationwide, mostly in the Midwest and the South, according to government records. In comparison, only 60 records were set on July 4, 2011, and a mere 15 were set on that date in 2010.

In addition to extreme heat during the day, it's not cooling off very much at night; in the first four days of July, 432 daily minimum high temperatures have been set (minimum high temperatures generally reflect nighttime conditions).

But there's a small amount of good news for those who are cooking in Chicago or withering in Washington, D.C. (both of which nearly broke all-time highs yesterday): a "cold" front will be sliding east across the country, said National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Carbin. That should bring slightly cooler weather and possibly precipitation to the Midwest and surrounding areas by the beginning or middle of next week, Carbin told OurAmazingPlanet.
And the prediction held true; the heat wave broke Saturday night here in southeast Michigan. The relief is only temporary, as 90+ temperatures will return by the weekend.

More stories about the heat wave and related conditions, such as drought, El Nino, and derechos, over the jump.

Our Amazing Planet via Discovery News: What's Behind The Record Heat?
By Douglas Main,
July 3, 2012
Heat is beating records around the country: the first five months of 2012 have been the hottest on record in the contiguous United States. And that's not including June, when 164 all-time high temperature records were tied or broken around the country, according to government records.

That's unusual, since the most intense heat usually comes in July and August for much of the country, said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with National Climatic Data Center. For example, only 47 all-time high records were tied or broken in June of last year.

Also, more than 40,000 daily heat records have been broken around the country so far this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Compare that with last year —the ninth warmest on record — when only 25,000 daily records had been set by this date.
I was afraid we'd have a summer as much above normal as our winter was. So far, my fears have been confirmed.

Discovery News: How Heat Kills
A combination of hot temperatures, high humidity and preexisting health conditions can make heat dangerous.
By Emily Sohn
Thu Jul 5, 2012 09:55 AM ET
In the last two weeks, a third of Americans have endured a heat advisory or excessive heat warning. And temperatures from the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast are running a good 10 to 15 degrees above average.

As the mercury has soared, so too have heat-related deaths. The current count is 23, according to news reports. And with forecasts projecting continued steaminess -- along with continued power outages -- in many places, chances are that more people will succumb.

So, why can heat be so deadly?
Not only is heat bad for your body, it's bad for your mind.

My Health News Daily via Discovery News: Why We Get Cranky When It's Hot
Sleep deprivation, dehydration and restrictions on activity can make an ugly combo.
Fri Jul 6, 2012 11:26 AM ET
Content provided by Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer
Hot days certainly take a toll on our bodies, but they can also test our tempers, experts say.

Many people feel a little hotheaded when the mercury rises, said Nancy Molitor, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

In fact, hot and especially humid weather is known to be associated with increases in aggression and violence, as well as a lower general mood, Molitor said.
Now, the other weather and climate stories.

Our Amazing Planet via Discovery News: Chance of El Nino Developing Increases
Content provided by Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet
Thu Jul 5, 2012 04:34 PM ET
There's a greater than 50 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop during the second half of 2012, the National Weather Service announced today (July 5).

When El Niño conditions are in place, water temperatures in the tropical Pacific are above average, which has far-reaching consequences for climate and weather patterns around the globe.

Based on the National Weather Service's prediction, the northern United States could be in for a warmer and drier winter than average, while the Southwest and Southeast could find itself with more rain than usual.
Discovery News: DC Derecho Disaster Explained
Analysis by Christina Reed
Mon Jul 2, 2012 08:50 AM ET
As the millions of people still without power today will attest, that was no ordinary wind storm on Friday.

An event that reportedly happens about once every four years, a fast and furious thunderstorm formed west of Chicago at about 11 a.m. and then raced at speeds upwards of 60 mph in a straight line across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. and out over the Atlantic Ocean by midnight, according to news reports.

Meteorologists call this kind of straight-lined fast moving thunderstorm a derecho. And this Friday's derecho already has its own wiki page.
Discovery News: Drought in US Breaks Records
Analysis by Tim Wall
Fri Jul 6, 2012 11:54 AM ET
Brown lawns, drooping trees and wilted flowers blanket America as a record-breaking expanse of the nation withers in drought.

Currently, nearly 47 percent of the country suffers under drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. If only the contiguous 48 states are considered, the figure jumps to approximately 56 percent.

The previous record was 45.87 percent in drought on Aug. 26, 2003, followed by 45.64 percent on Sept. 10, 2002. Considering only the lower 48, the numbers are 54.79 percent and 54.63 percent respectively.
The irony of all the above? It happened when the Earth was farthest away from the Sun. via Discovery News: Earth Is Farthest From the Sun This Week
As a heat wave continues over parts of the U.S. it may be hard to believe our planet is at its farthest point from the sun.
Thu Jul 5, 2012 08:22 AM ET
Content provided by Tariq Malik,
With a heat wave roasting parts of the United States this week, it may seem strange that our planet is now actually at its farthest point from the sun this year. Strange, but true.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the Earth reached a point in its orbit called "aphelion" at 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday (July 5). The Earth's aphelion is the spot where it is the farthest from the sun that it can get in a single year -- about 94.5 million miles (152 million kilometers).

To put that in perspective, the Earth is typically about 93 million miles (150 million km) from the sun. But because our planet's orbit is not a perfect circle (it's actually an ellipse) it has a farthest point and closest point to the sun. Earth's closest approach to the sun is called perihelion and occurs in early January.
I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle this last story for space and astronomy news later this week. :-)

After all that, I ask my readers the same question I asked over at Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation:
[A]re more of your readers convinced about global warming after the past two weeks' heat wave? They should be. This is what global warming looks like.


  1. Excellent analysis, combined with great use of source material. After seeing your weekly comments over at JHK's blog for many, many months, I am glad I wandered in.

    Count me a regular from now on. Your tenacity pays off!

    1. Thank you very much for stopping by! I was worried when I saw your handle that I'd be dealing with a spam comment, but my fears were unfounded. Welcome aboard and enjoy the ride!