So far 2012 is the hottest year on record in the United States, and daily temperature records have been broken all across the country as heat waves and drought — both predicted outcomes of global warming — grip the nation. LiveScience's new Heat Index blog launched July 30 tracks temperature records and extreme weather news until the heat is off.
Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012:
—Yesterday, Aug. 21, saw just 8 daily record highs tied or broken across the United States, though 20 record high minimums (overnight lows being highest ever recorded for that day) were tied or broken, according to NOAA.
Friday, Aug. 17, 2012:
—Are things cooling off, dare we hope? Yesterday, Aug. 16, saw just 11 daily record highs tied or broken across the United States, though 35 record high minimums (overnight lows being highest ever recorded for that day) were tied or broken, according to NOAA.
—U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (part of the Energy Department). The reason? Cheap and plentiful natural gas may have led the power industry to switch, burning less dirtier coal, according to an AP article.
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012:
—The area now in "exceptional" drought conditions is larger than the state of California, according to the Weather Channel. States in exceptional drought include: 63 percent of Kansas, including Topeka; 53 percent of Arkansas, including Little Rock; 39 percent of Oklahoma, including Okla. City and Tulsa; 36 percent of Missouri, including Kansas City; 23 percent of Nebraska, the Weather Channel reports.
Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012:
—It's always hot in Arizona during the summer, but this is nuts. Record highs in Phoenix were tied or broken Aug. 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13, writes the Arizona Republic. The temps, respectively: 112 degrees, 116, 114, 115, 115. Yesterday (April 14) was just mundane, at 113. They say it's a dry heat. Yeah, but there's sure a lot of it.
—The average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2012 was 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degrees C) above the 20th-century average of 60.4 F (15.8 C). That makes July the fourth warmest since records began in 1880, according to NOAA. And at the end of July about 57 percent of the contiguous United States fell into the moderate to extreme drought categories (Palmer Index).
Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012:
—Yesterday (Aug. 13), 65 record daily highs were broken or tied in the United States, with much of the heat centered on California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
—Researchers from the University of Washington's Polar Science Center have included new NASA sea-ice-thickness data in their estimate for this year's Arctic sea-ice minimum. The new forecast: about 1.7 million square miles (4.4 million square kilometers) of remaining ice, just above the lowest minimum on record, estimated at 1.59 million square miles (4.2 million square km), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Scientists have attributed the unprecedented lows in Arctic sea ice in recent years partly to man-made global warming.
Monday, Aug. 13, 2012:
—Fifty-five record daily highs were broken or tied in the United States yesterday (Aug. 12), with most of these occurring in Texas and Arizona. Meanwhile, 44 record high minimums (overnight lows being highest ever recorded for that day) were tied or broken.
Friday, Aug. 10, 2012:
—Throughout this week, drought has continued to intensify over parts of the central United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday (Aug. 9). "This week, we saw extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought continue to expand or intensify over parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author at the National Drought Mitigation Center. "New Mexico has also seen some degradation, and D4 drought has been introduced from east central Kansas to west central Missouri."
—A weather station in Death Valley in California hit a searing 126 F yesterday (Aug. 9), breaking its daily high record of 124 F reached in 2001, according to NOAA. Sixty-three other daily high records were broken or tied yesterday, many of which were set in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Kansas.
Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012:
—LA is feeling the heat: "The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning through Friday for several spots in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, including mountain ranges and valleys, with triple-digit heat projected in much of the region," states the LA Times online. Reportedly, the scorching heat wave and power-plant failures have spurred a statewide flex alert to conserve energy Friday (Aug. 10) through Sunday, asking consumers "to set air conditioning at 78 degrees or higher or turn it off while away from home, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances and restrict use of major appliances to the morning and late evening."
—Yesterday, Aug. 8, 84 record daily highs were tied or broken across the U.S., many in Arizona. For instance, Pinal, Ariz., hit 117 degrees F, breaking the last record for this day of 115 F, which was reached in 1966. And Phoenix, which reached 116 F yesterday, broke the daily high from 1940, according to NOAA.
Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012:
—Fifty-two record daily highs were tied or broken yesterday (Aug. 7) across the U.S., while 87 record high minimums (overnight lows being highest ever recorded for that day) were tied or broken.
—This just in: July was the hottest month on record for the continental United States since record keeping began in 1895. Last month's average temperature, 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit (25.3 degrees Celsius) edged past the previous record holder, July 1936, which hit 77.4 degrees F (25.2 degrees C), according to U.S. weather records.
Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012:
—Thirty-two daily high-temperature records were tied or broken yesterday (Aug. 6), according to NOAA, with a weather station in Grant, Ore., reaching 110 degrees F, breaking the daily record of 106 degrees F set in 2005.
—Climate Central reports there have been more record highs in the United States this year so far than all of 2011. "There are now more daily record high reports (27,042) for 2012 than for all of 2011 (26,674), and it's only early August," said senior meteorologist of the Weather Channel Guy Walton. According to Climate Central's Andrew Freedman, record daily high temperatures outnumbered record daily lows by a ratio of about 10-to-1. "Climate research indicates that over longer timescales, these ratios are increasingly favoring warm records as well," Freedman writes, adding that a 2009 study found that rather than a one-to-one ratio that would be expected without global warming, the ratio was closer to two-to-one during the decade 2000-2009.
—Meteorologist and field reporter for the Weather Channel, Mike Seidel, @mikeseidel, tweeted: "Chicago with their 40th 90-degree day this season today; the record is 47 in 1988. And now 2nd longest stretch of 80-degree days at 43."
—This year is on pace to break some heat records, and just today a new report finds the Northeast's seven-month average (from January through July) of 49.9 degrees F was the warmest such period since 1895, when such record-keeping began, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. Delaware saw its driest January-July since 1895, while it was the fifth driest in Maryland.
Monday, Aug. 6, 2012:
—The drought and heat scorching much of the U.S. are taking a toll on Midwest rivers, where tens of thousands of fish are reported to have died last week. In Iowa, more than 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon have succombed to the sizzling 97-degree-F water temperatures; in Nebraska's Lower Platte River, the Associated Press reports thousands of sturgeon, catfish and carp, including the endangered pallid sturgeon have died; and in Illinois, the hot weather is linked to the deaths of tens of thousands of largemouth and smallmouth bass and channelfish, the AP reports.
"It's a lot of miles of river, and a lot of fish," said Nebraska fisheries program manager Daryl Bauer in the AP article. "Most of those fish are barely identifiable. In this heat, they decay really fast."
—There were 57 record daily highs broken or tied across the U.S. yesterday (Aug. 5), and 108 record high minimums. The Malone weather station in Franklin, N.Y., broke its all-time high, reaching 94 degrees F yesterday, according to NOAA.
Friday, Aug. 3, 2012:
—There were 143 record daily highs broken or tied across the U.S. yesterday (Aug. 2), and 93 record high minimums. The Watonga weather station in Blaine, Okla., broke its all-time high, reaching 112 degrees F yesterday, according to NOAA. The previous record was 111 F, which was hit there Aug. 6, 1964. Three other all-time high records were tied yesterday, all in Oklahoma.
Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012:
—Record heat that continues in Oklahoma this month broke 64 temperature records in the state during July, CBS reports. "It's too hot to eat," said Megan Freedman when she stepped out of an office in Oklahoma City.
—Heat waves put tremendous demand on power supplies, and in Texas, hourly demand reached the highest level ever for July on Tuesday (July 31), Reuters reports. Peak demand hit 65,970 megawatts (MW) between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time. The previous record was 65,432 MW, set last year.
—At least one business in Wichita, Kan., is suffering amid 29 days with temperatures at above 100 degrees F this summer, according to The Wichita Eagle. "Our afternoons are like a ghost town," said Tom Smith, general manager of All Star Adventures, which includes an amusement park. The story reports that car sales this summer are up, however, and at one local golf course, golfers are still turning out, they're just starting earlier.
—"All-time record high from the Dust Bowl is in jeopardy today in Okla. City," tweeted the Weather Channel this morning, referring to Tulsa, Okla., which posted a searing 112 degrees F on Tuesday and Wednesday. The only other times Oklahoma's second-largest city has reached or exceeded such temperatures were two August days in 2011 and before that in 1936, during the Dust Bowl summer. [Read more on the Weather Channel]
—There were 69 record daily highs broken or tied across the U.S. yesterday (Aug. 1), and 73 record high minimums, according to NOAA.
Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012:
—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today "signed disaster designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat," according to a USDA statement. The states include: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming. Some 50.3 percent of all U.S. counties have been designated as disaster areas by the USDA this year, mainly because of drought. [Read more on the drought disaster areas]
—There were 84 record daily highs broken or tied across the U.S. yesterday (July 31), and 99 record high minimums (overnight lows being highest ever recorded for that day). The extreme heat was centered around Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. A weather station in Prairie County, Arkansas tied its all-time high of 109 degrees F, according to NOAA.
—"Incredible: last 3 Julys hottest 3 in 130+ years of records in DC," tweeted the Capital Weather Gang, the Washington Post's weather blog for the D.C. area.
—"The state with greatest number of severe weather reports for July goes to North Carolina with 526 reports," according to an Accuweather tweet.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012:
—When it's hot, hit the beach! Where it's … hot. In fact, a buoy 60 miles offshore in Lake Michigan "recorded its highest air temperature in its 30-year history," according to a report yesterday on the Chicago Sun-Times website.
— "Unusually hot weather has kept potential donors from venturing out," according to the American Red Cross, which reported blood donations dropped to the lowest in 15 years, according to NBCNews.com's Body Odd column. The decline is expected with the Red Cross' biggest blood supplier, students, out on break; but the power outages and storms have meant both more demand and more blood drives being cancelled. The hot weather sealed the deal, keeping people indoors where it's cool.
— "Barring an apocalyptic freeze tonight, July 2012 should end up D.C.'s all-time second hottest month on record," writes Justin Grieser on washingtonpost.com. Temperatures through July 30 for the Washington, D.C., area (as measured at Reagan National Airport) averaged 84.1 degrees F; the hottest D.C. July occurred in 2011, when average temperatures hit 84.5 degrees F, Grieser reports.
— Arctic "sea ice cover continues to decline at a rapid pace, and is currently on par with where the 2007 record melt season stood at the same time of year," writes Andrew Freedman on a Climate Central blog today, noting the melt season (when Arctic sea ice declines due to warmer temperatures every year) has about a month and a half to go. The Arctic melt season began earlier than normal, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, with low levels throughout July. A new study detailed online July 26 in the journal Environmental Research Letters suggests man-made global warming "is the most plausible explanation" for the decline in Arctic sea ice seen since satellite measurements began in 1979.
Monday, July 30, 2012:
Little Rock, Ark., saw record highs today, reaching 110 degrees F, only the fourth time the capital of Arkansas has reached this steamy of a temperature in records dating back to 1879, according to The Weather Channel. The most recent chart-topper occurred last year on Aug. 3, when Little Rock's mercury reached an all-time high of 114 F, the Weather Channel stated.
The all-time hottest month on record in the United States came in July 1936, during a low point for the country marred by the dust storms of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. While this July may not top that record, it's likely to go down in the books as one of the top five hottest for the continental United States, since record keeping began in 1895. [Read more on the hottest July]
Tulsa, Okla. — The forecast for Wednesday, Aug. 1 is a whopping 113 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Dan Satterfield on his AGU blog today. "[T]he all time record for Tulsa is 116 degrees in the dust bowl August of 1936," Satterfield notes. "From what I see on the numerical models tonight, that record is in jeopardy."
Recent news of note:
July 27, 2012: Temperatures in June and the first week of July qualified this summer so far as one of the top-three hottest summers in the continental United States since 1950, said Bob Smerbeck, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather.com. What's responsible? The jet stream, a band of high-altitude westerly winds, plays a role by acting as a boundary between cool, northern air and warmer southern air. It was situated over northern California, then across the northern plains near the Canadian border before dipping southeast over the northeastern part of the country in late July.
July 9, 2012: June weather records are in, and the nation's unprecedented warm spell continues, making this the warmest first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period since record-keeping began for the continental U.S. in 1895. [Read more on this half-year record heat]
July 5, 2012: The United States is parched, with more than half of the land area in the lower 48 states experiencing moderate to extreme drought, according to a report released today.
Aug. 2, 2011: July 2011 brought oppressive heat to much of the country, with all 50 states setting high temperature records. Climate scientists say that such heat waves will be the norm in the future if climate change continues unabated, but experts say it will take more summers as hot as this one to shift the climate-change debate. For one, by winter many will have forgotten the scorcher of a summer.
Plus, the inability to directly pin a single weather event on climate change makes it tough for scientists to communicate the realities of climate change, they say. (Climate change acts to load the dice, making it more likely that with any roll, you'll come up with extreme weather, including heat waves and heavy precipitation.)