Mysterious Nationwide Heat Wave Causes Exploding Sidewalks and a Blood-Red Reservoir

For reasons that no major U.S. news outlet can apparently explain, it is really, really, really hot.  How hot is it?  It was so hot

  • “Dick Cheney waterboarded himself.”
  • “So hot Charlie Sheen was snorting actual snow.”
  • “It was so hot presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was fanning herself with pornography.
  • “It was so hot in Washington that Congress had to install a fan on the debt ceiling.”

But not so hot that one can actually find any articles talking about global warming.  I’m not certain how hot it would have to be for that, but hotter than this:

This was the hottest July in Oklahoma history by a full 1°F, and the drought was so bad the Governor told residents to pray for rain.  But this would actually be a rather average July by the second half of this century if we keep listening to the politicians from the Sooner Dust Bowl state — see “U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought this century.”

ABC News reports, “Heat Wave Causes Exploding Sidewalks and a Blood-Red Reservoir in Texas,” but they can’t bring themselves to invoke any climate science.  Quite the reverse, in fact:

Doomsayers are always on the lookout for signs of the Apocalypse, and few have been more captivating than record-setting temperatures scorching the nation these days….

With the elevated temperatures has come even more compelling fodder for the students of prophesy, including a reservoir stained blood-red in Texas,  exploding sidewalks in Iowa, snail-slow railroad trains in the Midwest and ant infestations in Florida….

Farquhar said he had heard about apocalypse believers commenting on the blood-red reservoir signaling the end of the world. But the scientist said  the red growth, called Chromatiaceae bacteria, is a “naturally-occurring phenomenon.”


Now  as I’ve said many times, every story about extreme weather does not need to mention global warming.  But if ABC News is going to set up believers in Revelation and then invoke science to dismiss them, they could perhaps talk to a climatologist.  Some day.

And that is especially true for a monster heatwave like this that is so uniquely extensive in space and time — just the kind of heat wave climate scientists have warned would become increasingly likely.

Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center and found U.S. heat records have been outnumbering cold records by a huge amount.

Monthly total number of daily high temperature and low temperature records set in the U.S. for June 2010 through June 2011, data from NOAA.

Scolnik notes:

U.S. daily high temperature records were dominating cold records in July by a ratio of over 5 to 1, based on preliminary data from the National Climatic Data Center. A surge of heat records in the final week of the month has pushed the total ratio to 6.1 to 1. For the summer as a whole (June and July combined), the ratio has increased to 8.4 to 1. This also increases the year-to-date ratio to 2.7 to 1.

Out of the 1601 daily high temperature records broken in July, 49 were all-time records for any day of any month. Combined with the updated count of 20 all-time records in June, this gives a total of 69 so far this summer. In comparison, only 8 all-time cold records were set in all 3 months of last winter combined.

I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming.  If you want to know how to judge whether these ratios are a big deal, see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.” which is the source of this figure:


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.

Our science-based institutions, like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, have no difficulty straightforwardly explaining the connection between human-caused global warming and these monster heatwaves.  If only our news-based institutions could do the same.

Below are old comments from the earlier Facebook commenting system:

It you want to understand why the media (and everyone else for that matter) finds climate change to be outside our “norms of attention”, I suggest you watch George Marshall’s excellent lecture (in 3 short parts) on the psychology of climate change at

11 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 5:44pm

Paul Magnus · Top Commenter

5 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 8:19pm

Mari McKay

Thanks for the recommendation, I shall.

3 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 9:02pm

Sonny Whitelaw · Queensland University of Technology

Thank you for this; it’s brilliant

1 · Like · Reply · August 4 at 5:46pm

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Bob Geiger · Silver Spring, Maryland

In DC, July was the hottest month on record by more than a full degree F. The Post’s Capital Weather Gand ran a story on this. Joe is rightly harsh with the Post about much of their coverage. But this story on Monday was on the mark. It looked at long-term trends and aggregate records broken, including nearly 6,000 record warm low temperatures across the U.S. in July, versus just more than 400 record cold low temperatures. The story notes that “The U.S. Global Change Research Program projects substantial increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme heat across the United State because of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” The story concludes: “Greenhouse gas warming and urbanization, however, have loaded the dice for more summers like the current one, and quite plausibly worse.”

5 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 5:59pm

Joseph Romm · Top Commenter · Center for American Progress

Yes, good piece.

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 6:31pm

Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

U.S. All-Time Highest Min Temperature Records set on August 1, 2011
Out of a possible 6,465 records: 1 (Broken) + 5 (Tied) = 6 Total
If you look this one up, the dot map shows that none of these locations are urban heat islands.
29 All Time Night Time Records set in the first three days of August.
Notice the number of dams setting these records.

Like · Reply · August 4 at 12:22am

Leif Erik Knutsen · Top Commenter · Friends with Joseph Romm

It has been said before but I must trot it out again. The ten year continental average of heat over cold records of better than 2 to 1 would imply to me that at least every other heat record could be attributed to global warming. Fifty years ago the norm was close to 1 to 1. Then came the solar dimming from soot and dust, then the clean air act and obvious warming ever since. If not global warming as 95%+ of climatologists believe, what?

5 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 7:49pm

Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

This is being expressed in “All-Time Records” being broken now.
Of all kinds.

1 · Like · Reply · August 4 at 12:07am

Mike Roddy · Top Commenter · Yucca Valley, California

Global warming is a win win for the Right in states like Oklahoma. It means more oil is being burned, helping their fossil fuel based business interests. If the world burns up, even better: they’ll be whisked up in pods to The Rapture, and their relatives will all be joining them soon!

5 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 8:40pm

  • Prokaryotes – · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)

It’s a game, either a Miracle happens or we have lost. That’s how these people tick.

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 9:01pm

Jacob Ide · Graduate Teaching Assistant at Oklahoma State University

Dude, I’m from tulsa “the oil capitol of the world” and our oil interests left a long time ago (except maybe a few). Point you’re anger towards texas whose aweful mega-suburbs (they call them cities) stole our oil companies. We benefit nothing from oil being burned. With the temp being 115 today I think that we just suffer. p.s. we’re not all eco-holocaust deniers out here. :)

3 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 10:23pm

Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

The weather report of Inhofe’s Igloo Village :


1 · Like · Reply · August 4 at 12:58am

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dougaway (signed in using Yahoo)

The elephant in the room is an emperor wearing no clothes? The media has a funny way of downplaying stories that might upset their customers, i.e. advertisers. It was the same during the health care reform debate, the same during the housing bubble, the same during the NAFTA debate. If enough powerful interests wake up to the danger of climate change, maaaaybeee there’ll be a change. But for now the Internet and blogs like this are the only way concerned citizens can inform themselves without wading through lots of fluff like the ABC piece above.

On a different note: is there any way to increase the font size of these comments? In Chrome and Safari, zooming doesn’t work…it just increases the spacing not the font size. I have decent vision and I find them hard to read. A vision-impaired person must have a really hard time.

3 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 1:34am

Peter Gutmann · Portland, Oregon

Ctrl-+ will increase font size in Firefox and IE.

Like · Reply · August 5 at 3:30pm

Peter S. Mizla · Top Commenter · Vernon, Connecticut

It was 115 today in Ft. Smith Ark. OK City now 50 days over 100 degrees. Where is Brian Williams of NBC? Or the rest of the Media? Are they part of the New Plutocracy as well?

I see the arctic is melting again at a frantic pace- after a few days of a slowdown.
100K meltdown today alone. Strong high pressure moving into the arctic.

back to same level as early August 2007–
It will likely be slow to refreeze this autumn- what does could this mean for weather further south?

3 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 7:06pm

  • newburg (signed in using Yahoo)

Oh, c’mon. It’s all just ‘a dome heat’ resulting from random pressure thangies. And surely such weather systems aren’t affected by a long-term accumulation of energy in the atmosphere and oceans. ;-)

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 8:40pm

  • Prokaryotes – · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)

That’s right! It’s probably just some stretch and pure coincidence.

Don’t be the Doomer, who here is paranoid?

Afraid of the weather, seriously?

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 8:56pm

Byron Lightweaver · Top Commenter · Berkeley, California

But but but, SATELLITES tell us that the temperature on the ground is cooler from space, or something…

Like · Reply · August 7 at 2:57pm

Climate Chaos

UK heatwave: Poison algae turns Norfolk Broads green after hot weather spell.
These stunning aerial images show the beautiful but potentially toxic blue-green algae which has engulfed Norfolk’s Malthouse and Ranworth Broads.

3 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 8:21pm

Climate Chaos

Brittany beaches hit by toxic algae
Dead boars washed up on shores point to lethal hazard of poisonous gas and water pollution from algal slime

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 8:22pm

Climate Chaos

Algae Bloom Spreads Across Qingdao, China Beach (PHOTOS)
The Daily Mail reports that a surprise Algae bloom spreading across Qingdao, China’s most popular beach hasn’t deterred vacationers from enjoying their summer holiday by the sea. The paper reports that the bloom is over 70 meters wide and 100 meters long, as has dyed everything in its path “a shocki

2 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 8:24pm

Joan Savage · Top Commenter · SUNY-ESF

Emotionally, it’s easier to endure discrete events instead of a no-going-back trend. News media knows how to report an event. Readers can learn about the event, and then still get on with their own lives, because it was only an event, see?
We need some language and leadership that deals helpfully with the unspoken terror about the no-going-back trend. News media is not trained for that.

2 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 11:28pm

mtmariner101 (signed in using Yahoo)

It was so hot President Obama nearly mentioned ‘global warming’ during a recent interview but he corrected himself just in time.

Meanwhile Russian and European shippers consider the time savings and the fuel cost advantages offered by the prospect of using the northern sea route through the Arctic to service the China market due to the mysterious disappearance of the ice pack.

2 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 6:58pm

Capital Climate (signed in using Hotmail)

More all-time heat records in August, including at least 115 today at Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

2 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 6:07pm

  • Capital Climate (signed in using Hotmail)

Just to be clear, that’s 115 degrees, not 115 records.

1 · Like · Reply · August 3 at 6:08pm

Prokaryotes – · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)

Great read! Wow, red rivers, the Omen, a new feature of the great 6th extinction!

2 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 8:53pm

Mandy Henk · Top Commenter · Access Services Librarian at DePuaw University

I had this same dissonance writ small yesterday. We’ve had a death in the family and I spent much of yesterday listening to people in their 70’s and 80’s talking about how it never used to get this hot and how awful it was while never once mentioning climate change. What makes it even stranger is that I was reading Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tradegy of Climate Change, so the topic was on the table rather literally. But nothing but crickets.

1 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 9:45am

Prokaryotes – · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)

Meanwhile in Germany, recorded one of the wettest July in history, also one of the coldest (first month which was colder on average this year). THis after Germany recorded it’s driest spring on record!

But do you think this is important enough to be discussed in the media.. Noooo!

1 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 5:12am

Christianne Leblanc · Works at BBM Canada

Check this link if you don’t think there is a climate problem.

1 · Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 7:23pm

Geremea Fioravanti · University of South Alabama

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 5 at 3:27pm

Robert Fanney · Top Commenter · Flagler College

The heatwave is unprecedented. They’re saying the Texas drought is now the worst ever — even since the dust bowl. And according to NOAA 9000 heat records were broken or tied in July. They say that weather is local and climate is global. But there comes a point when climate change is so great, so dramatic, that its effects on weather are undeniable to the rational observer. This year’s heat wave, droughts, floods, tornadoes and fires all fit into a larger picture that makes what’s happening seem quite off kilter.

It’s time for the deniers to pull their heads out of the sand. Not just for our sake, but for theirs too. Sand’s almost hot enough to bake a head these days.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 5 at 3:45pm

candysport (signed in using Yahoo)

didn’t they decide to downplay the clean air act to give more money to politicians?

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 9 at 1:54pm

Robert Way · Research assistant at Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Romm,
As a climate Change researcher I find myself terribly disappointed to see what is going on in Canada on this subject. I was wondering if you could take some time to have a post on the subject with particular relevance to the recent cuts.–700-environment-canada-jobs-on-the-chopping-block?bn=1

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 1:17am

Kevin Leslie · University of South Carolina

I wonder where all this hot weather is coming from?

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 6 at 6:23pm

Michael A. Lewis · Top Commenter · Works at Freelance writer

While we’re at it, let’s blame UFOs, ghosts, poltergeists and angels on global warming. Makes just as much sense.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 3 at 10:10pm

Leif Erik Knutsen · Top Commenter · Friends with Joseph Romm

Not to me.

Like · Reply · August 4 at 1:06am

Beau Peyton · Germantown, Tennessee

Could see a 60 year drought? No one at NOAA or otherwise has been able to scientifically predict multi-year or decadal droughts. We can tell how frequently such events occurred in the past, how rare they are, etc. But saying you can predict a 60 year drought is a lie.

Like · Reply · August 4 at 8:34am

Leif Erik Knutsen · Top Commenter · Friends with Joseph Romm

There is a big difference between prediction and statistical analysis. There is also a big difference between scientific understanding and arm chair blogging. Saying there is no such effect as global warming in light of over a hundred years if scientific understanding and research, that is a lie that will come back and bite. HARD!

Like · Reply · August 4 at 9:19am

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Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

Warm spring breaks UK wildlife records.
Data shows warm weather led to trees leafing and flowering and birds and insects appearing unusually early in 2011.
A host of events occurred much earlier than normal, with holly blue butterflies emerging 26 days early, compared to data from 2001 when the weather was closest to the long-term average, and ash and beech trees leafing two and a half weeks early.

The orange tip butterfly emerged at the earliest date it has done in records going back a century, while horse chestnuts, purple lilac and dog rose were all seen flowering earlier than ever.
…See More

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 12:32am

Colorado Bob · Top Commenter

What do all these animals. and plants have in common ?
Answer :
None of them has ever heard of American Talk Radio.

1 · Like · Reply · August 4 at 12:37am

Linda J. B. Wiley · The University of Kansas

why is a connection to global warming and weather issues hard for so many to make?

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 9 at 5:22pm

Jim Pettit · Haård Knøx Universität (summa cum laude)

Remember, though, “standards” of “journalistic” “fairness” dictate that when writing a story mentioning the ridiculously large number of heat records being broken, a “reporter” must always mention that it was 80 below in Antarctica or whatever. You know, for “balance”. Like this: “So far, the NCDC says 263 record high or high minimum temperatures records were set yesterday. But they also say there was a record low temperature set in New Mexico, so you know autumn is on the way!”

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 10:06am

Alex O’connor · Top Commenter · Chicago, Illinois

The eschatology of today’s right is critical in understanding their obstreperous recalcitrance in so many issues from global warming to the debt ceiling deal. It is unreasonable and anti-intellectual but then so is eschatology.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 12:36pm

Paul Magnus · Top Commenter

Warmest aug so far for auz… 2011 giving 2010 a run…

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 4 at 1:42am

John Borstelmann · Stanford University

The evidence of climate change is clear, and the consequences will get worse rapidly, especially since we are doing nothing to make it slow down.

Like · Reply · Subscribe · August 5 at 11:26am


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