The U.S. has already seen more daily heat records broken or tied than 2011 — and it’s only August.
In 2011, 26,674 daily heat records were broken or tied. As of August 5th, there have already been 27,042 heat records set or matched. Many of those records were set during heat waves in March and July. In March, almost 8,000 heat records were either set or tied, and another 4,420 were either set or tied last month.
According to Climate Central:
That this year has already eclipsed the number of records set during 2011 is especially remarkable because 2011 was a very warm year, during which Oklahoma set the record for the all-time warmest average summer temperature of any state in the country, with Texas coming in a close second thanks to the drought conditions and heat waves there. Both states have been baking under searing heat once again this summer. Oklahoma City reached 112°F on July 1 and 2, and 113°F on the 3rd, which tied the all-time high temperature record for that location. Every day from July 17 through August 4 reached or exceeded 100°F in Oklahoma City, and the heat and drought have led to an outbreak of wildfiresacross the state.
While the final four months of the year may not seem like they would add much to the record totals, during 2010, there were 8,636 record daily highs set or tied from September through the end of December, and in 2011 the total was 5,800.
Last year, the ratio of record highs to records lows was about 3-to-1. This year, it is closer to 10-to-1. According to a 2009 study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a ratio above 1-to-1 indicates that the climate is warming. The study also found that the current warming could not be explained by natural climatic variation. Projections show that the ratio of record highs to record lows will only get more extreme, possibly reaching 50-to-1 by 2100.
The record heat has already taken a toll on the country. So far, 2011 is already the hottest year on record for the U.S. The heat, and associated drought, have impacted the nation’s corn crop and threatened shipping on the Mississippi River by dramatically lowering water levels. The heat has also had an impact on the nation’s dairy production and continues to imperil a significant subset of the population.
According to some climate scientists, short-term relief from the heat should be on the horizon, but we could be in for an even hotter year in 2013.
— Max Frankel