66 Responses to Record heat sweeps DC, nation, and world — Washington Post staff sleepwalks through the story
Masters: “Extreme heat wave sets all-time high temperature records in Africa and Middle East”
Total number of daily high and low temperature records set in the U.S., data from NOAA National Climatic Data Center, background image © Kevin Ambrose. Includes historical daily observations archived in NCDC’s Cooperative Summary of the Day data set and preliminary reports from Cooperative Observers and First Order National Weather Service stations. All stations have a Period of Record of at least 30 years.
It’s been so hot in DC — “The official Washington DC temperature of 99° at 2 pm today has already broken the heat record for June 24 set in 1894” — that even the Washington Post noticed. Sort of.
They assigned a whole team to write about it in a rare front page meteorological story, “Hot, with a chance of sweltering and stifling heat.” The story begins promisingly:
First we were buried under Snowmageddon. Then we sweated through the hottest spring in Washington history. But that might have been only a warmup.
But the crack reporting team at the WashPost just can’t seem to find any larger pattern, which is quite impressive given the credits on the piece. Kevin Sieff is the lead author but “Staff writers Hamil R. Harris, Chris Jenkins, Stephanie Lee, Phillip Lucas, Rick Rojas, Donna St. George and Josh White contributed to this report.”
Wow! Eight staff writers worked on this piece — I’ve never seen a WP piece with this many contributors. It’s sort of like the IPCC of WashPost weather stories. But without the climate part. Or the scientists.
Indeed, for all the record setting — the piece notes “This spring’s average of 66.7 degrees was a half degree warmer than the average for spring 1991, formerly the warmest spring in Washington’s history” — the WP doesn’t mention what’s going on nationwide or globally or quote a single climate scientist.
Worse, they even run these statements to downplay what is going on:
And although it was just Monday that marked the official transition from spring to summer, the first days of this new season feel all too familiar — the same soaring temperatures, the same hunt for respite….
D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said two extra ambulances were put to use Wednesday after a barrage of heat-related emergency calls. “Some people say it’s getting hot earlier than usual,” Piringer said. “This feels pretty normal to us.”
Thank you so much D.C. fire department spokesman and apparently part-time climatologist Piringer for that assessment. And thank you so much team WashPost for quoting him as opposed to the countless experts in the DC area who work for, say, NOAA.
And yes, we are setting higher highs and few lower lows, as a 2009 National Center for Atmospheric Research study found:
This graphic shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole. (©UCAR, graphic by Mike Shibao.)
NCAR begins its release on this study (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“):
Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.
“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”
Good to know the DC fire department is clueless on this important subject related directly to their work helping people during hot weather.
Sadly, for many if not most weather reporters — or metro reporters or maybe just most reporters — it’s all just one of the greatest coincidences in human history (see “The NYT once again equates non-scientists “” Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) “” with climate scientists” and “Is that airlifted snow on your Olympic ski mountain, or is your enormous helicopter just happy to see me?“).
Sadly, for the rest of us, assuming we keep doing what we’re doing, which is to say, nothing, NCAR predicts (and yes, they use the word “predictions” not “projections”):
The modeling results indicate that if nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a “business as usual” scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100.
In short, if you like it hot, you ain’t seen nothing yet (see Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).
Elsewhere on the planet, meteorologist Jeff Masters reports, “Extreme heat wave sets all-time high temperature records in Africa and Middle East“:
A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity and areal covered has smashed all-time high temperatures in four nations in the Middle East and Africa over the past week. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Chad, and Niger all set new records for their hottest temperatures of all time, and several other Middle East nations came within a degree of their hottest temperatures ever. The heat was the most intense in Iraq, which had its hottest day in history on June 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Basra. Iraq’s previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F) set August 8, 1937, in Ash Shu’aybah. It was also incredibly hot in Saudi Arabia, which had its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday (June 22): 52.0°C (125.6°F), measured in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F), at Abqaiq, date unknown. The record heat was accompanied by a sandstorm, which caused eight power plants to go offline, resulting in blackouts to several Saudi cities.
In Africa, Chad had its hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.6°C (117.7°F) at Faya. The previous record was 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Faya on June 3 and June 9, 1961. Niger tied its record for hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.1°C (116.8°F) at Bilma. That record stood for just one day, as Bilma broke the record again on Wednesday (June 23), when the mercury topped out at 48.2°C (118.8°F). The previous record was 47.1°C on May 24, 1998, also at Bilma.
Three countries came within a degree of their all time hottest temperature on record during the heat wave. Bahrain had its hottest June temperature ever, 46.9°C, on June 20, missing the all-time record of 47.5°C (117.5°F), set July 14, 2000. Temperatures in Quatar reached 48.8°C (119.8°F) on June 20. Quatar’s all-time record hottest temperature was 49.6°C (121.3°F) set on July 9, 2000. It was also very hot in Kuwait, with temperatures reaching 51°C (123.8°F) in the capital on June 15. Kuwait’s all-time hottest temperature was 51.9°C (125.4°F), on July 27,2007, at Abdaly. According to Essa Ramadan, a Kuwaiti meteorologist from Civil Aviation, Matrabah, Kuwait smashed this record and had Asia’s hottest temperature in history on June 15 this year, when the mercury hit 54.0°C (129.2°F). However, data from this station is notoriously bad, and each year bogus record highs have to be corrected, according to an email I received from weather record researcher Maximiliano Herrera. Asia’s hottest temperature in history will very likely remain the 53.5°C (128.3°F) recorded at MohenjuDaro, Pakistan on May 26 this year.
We’ve now had six countries in Asia and Africa that have beaten their all-time hottest temperature record during the past two months. As I discussed in my blog about Pakistan’s May 26 record, Southeast Asia also had its all-time hottest temperature in May, when the mercury hit 47°C (116.6°F) in Myinmu, Myanmar on May 12. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to Chris Burt, author of Extreme Weather, setting four national heat records in one month is not unprecedented–in August 2003, five countries (the UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) all broke their all-time heat records during that year’s notorious summer heat wave. Fortunately, the residents of the countries affected by this week’s heat wave are more adapted to extreme high temperatures, and we are not seeing the kind of death tolls experienced during the 2003 European heat wave (30,000 killed.)
This week’s heat wave in Africa and the Middle East is partially a consequence of the fact that Earth has now seen three straight months with its warmest temperatures on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. It will be interesting to see if the demise of El Ni±o in May will keep June from becoming the globe’s fourth straight warmest month on record.
If only scientists had warned us this might happen.
- “Hellish heatwave” in Pakistan sets hottest temperature in Asia’s history, 53.5°C (128.3°F); in India, hundreds die, death toll expected to rise as record temperatures soar up to 122°F
- NASA: The 12-month running mean global temperature has reached a new record in 2010 “” despite recent minimum of solar irradiance: “We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”
- Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record “” and the disinformers say it disproves (!) climate science
- NOAA: “North American snow cover for April 2010 was the smallest on record.” Go figure!
- Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one.
- Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira “” “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”