2011-07-22 02:51:01Record highs broken in slew of cities -- CNN
John Hartz
John Hartz

(CNN) -- The blistering heat wave that has brought stifling conditions to much of the United States broke 55 record highs on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said Thursday. That's more than 1% of all temperature records in the country.

Another 60 records were tied Wednesday, the weather service said.

As many as 22 deaths are blamed on the heat, the service said. Spokesman Pat Slattery said that includes 13 deaths in Missouri that officials say could be heat-related.

Excessive heat and humidity are "expected to expand into the Ohio Valley and East Coast states for the remainder of the week," the weather service said in its forecast Thursday.

To access the entire article, click here.

2011-07-22 05:00:45
Rob Honeycutt


It's news like this that make you really see the sort of crises 2C of warming could bring.

2011-07-22 06:02:28More bad news data...
John Hartz
John Hartz

"So far this month we've seen more than 1,000 record highs set across the country," National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro told NPR. "This is going to be one of the more significant heat waves in the last five years."

Source: "The Agony Of The Heat", NPR, July 21, 2011

2011-07-22 06:02:50
George Morrison

Well, we set a record low here in Toronto today!

As in a record high for the low temperature for the day. :p ... 26.6C "To us it's as important as max temperature", said Dave Phillips, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

Don't know if we will set a new high for the all-time high. It's close, as it is across southern Ontario and Quebec. Toronto "humidex" temperature is 51C...

2011-07-22 08:22:13
Same Ordinary Fool


Rush Limbaugh..............."They're playing games with us on this heat wave again...Gonna be like 116 in Washington.  No it's not. It's going to be a 100, maybe 99.  the heat index, manufactured by the government, they tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there... ..."

Joe Romm's Jul 20th blogpost title:  "It's Not the Heat, It's the Stupidity:  Limbaugh calls Heat Index a Liberal Government Conspiracy"

How do we count the ways...............how many issues are there in the potential partial attribution of heat waves to AGW?

1.  "One of the reasons we're seeing such high values (of heat index numbers) is because of the recent flooding that we saw this spring across the Midwest and Mississippi valley." As quoted in the article.  Joe Romm also mentions the record rainfall itself.

2.  Increased nighttime minimum temperatures are a predicted and observed consequence of AGW.  And it is the high nighttime temperatures, that provide no relief from the heat of the day, that often have a prominent part in the formal heat wave declarations, as defined locally.

3.  Anthony Watts tells us that we can't blame this specific weather pattern on AGW:  "...a large blockiing high like we saw last year in Russia is stubbornly fixated over the central USA."  And honorable organizations have called the Russian heat wave non -AGW.

4.  There is a point of view that AGW effects are already present in every extreme event.  Roughly, I suppose this would be seen as including the addition of the average temperature increase since 1975 to the much higher weather variation.

5.  Is there a direct increase in humidity due to the additional 4% of water vapor in the atmosphere that results from warmer ocean SST's?  It would seem to be obvious, yet I've never seen it mentioned.  If it's never mentioned because its's not true, an explanation would still be appropriate..........This is of course separate from the indirect consequence, from re-evaporation of previous precipitation.

6.  Sometimes, heat waves occur without high humidity, which complicates  generalizations..........In the desert region of Phoenix, Arizona, the record high temperatures occur in June's dry heat.  The people who can't afford air conditioning have evaporative coolers.  Those who die in Phoenix heat waves are mostly homeless..........Higher humidities that will arrive with the summer monsoon will then lower temperatures, and increase the general discomfort.

BaerbelW's rhetorical question [19July, "Dangerous..."] about..............."...the connection between this heat wave and climate change?"  suggests to me the possibility of a SkS blogpost to discuss these timely issues.  SkS readers will be expecting something.

By discussing the various attribution factors 'separately', the piece can be informative, while remaing independent of the specific US event.

And the anticipation of the SkS readers can be partially mollified with a comparison of how the 2003 French Heat Wave is partially attributed to AGW, while the Russian Heat Wave is not.

2011-07-22 08:39:08
Julian Brimelow


"And the anticipation of the SkS readers can be partially mollified with a comparison of how the 2003 French Heat Wave is partially attributed to AGW, while the Russian Heat Wave is not."

That is an excellent point.  Both occured in the same warmer, more moist world--so why would one have an anthro component and not the other?  I hope that someone is undertaking a proper attribution study for the Russian and now N. American heat waves....and what about the fairly recent Aussie heat waves?

What is especially striking about the current N. American heat wave (affecting both USA and Canada), is the high humidex values, I mean they are just insane, a humidex of 50 C in Canada?!  Canada has, of course, had heat waves in the past-- for example Toronto was pretty hot in 1955 on this day (that record high of 35.6 C was broken today), but the humidex that day back in 1955 was "only" ~41 C, compared to today's 51 C.

One could probably also tie in this paper.  The max. wet-bulb temperature in Toronto today was about 28 C-- things are going to get incredibly unpleasant (and deadly) a long time before the critical threshold of 35 C identified in the paper is reached.

2011-07-22 14:11:26
Julian Brimelow

A relatively old paper, but news to me ("Cause of the widening of the tropical belt since 1958"). H/T Joe Romm.

2011-07-22 16:46:35
Same Ordinary Fool


Albatross...............It is with some discomfort that I must admit that Anthony seems to have been right when he declared that the Russian Heat Wave was unrelated to AGW.....per noble NOAA:...."Russia is climatologically disposed toward blocking during summer...and many of its prior July heat waves were associated with blocks"..........But  hopefully these same words make the Russian Heat Wave an inapt comparison for the US Heat Wave??

Also, the Russian Heat Wave occurred during dry hot weather:  during a drought, and during the hottest Russian summer ever..........The 2003 European Heat Wave was also hot and dry, but in addition the nighttime minimum temperatures were also high..........I presume the difference, in that the US Heat Wave is high-humidity, is simply because it encountered flooding and recent rainfall on the ground.

Dole et al(2011){noaa.gov}..............."Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave"

....."Exceptional heat and poor air quality due to wildfires led to large increases in deaths in Moscow and elsewhere in western Russia."

.....For the 2003 WESTERN EUROPEAN HEAT WAVE, human influences are estimated to have at least doubled the risk for such an extrem event [Stott et al, 2004].  Other boundary forcings also contributed to the 2003 European heat wave, including anomalous sea surface temperatures (SST's) {Feudale and Shukla, 2010]."  emphasis added

....."Severe drought occurred with the Russian heat wave, making it likely that land surface feedbacks amplified this heat wave's intensity, as has been observed in prior severe droughts."

....."Russia is climatologically disposed toward blocking events during summer...and many of its prior July heat waves were associated with blocks."

....."Nor are there indications that blocking would increase in response to increasing greenhouse gases.  Results using very high-resolution climate models suggest that the number of Euro-Atlantic blocking events will decrease by the latter half of the 21st Century."

....."Our analysis points to a primarily natural cause for the Russian heat wave.  That event appears to be mainly due to internal atmospheric dynamical processes that produced and maintained an intense and long-lived blocking event.  Results from prior studies suggest that it is likely that the intensity of the heat wave was further increased by regional land surface feedbacks.  The absence of long-term trends in regional mean temperatures and variability together with the model results indicate that it is very unlikely that warming attributable to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations contributed to the magnitude of this heat wave.  Nevertheless, there is evidence that such warming has contributed to observed heat waves in other regions, and is very likely to produce more frequent and extreme heat waves later this century..."

Stott et al(2004)..............."Human contribution to the European heat wave of 2003"

....."...It is an ill posed question whether the 2003 heatwave was caused, in a simple deterministic sense, by a modification of the external influences on climate, for example increasing concentrastions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, because almost any such weather event might have occurred by chance in an unmodified climate...[re: greenhouse gases] we estimate that it is very likely (confidence level >90%) that human influence has at least doubled the risk of a heatwave exceeding this threshold magnitude."

Feudale and Shukla (2010)..............."Influence of sea surface temperature in the European heat wave of 2003.  Part II:  a modeling study"

....."It is found that the global SST anomalies can explain many major features of the European heat wave during the summer of 2003".....and....."The results suggest that the SST anomalies had an additional effect of reducing the baroclinicity in the European area reinforcing the blocking circulation and helping to create ideal conditions for the establishment of the heat wave."

2011-07-22 18:57:27
Rob Painting

SOF - we covered that Dole (2011) paper in the forum a while back. Kevin Trenberth savaged it. This from Climate Progress:

"The Dole et al paper “Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave” is superficial and does not come close to answering the question in an appropriate manner. Many statements are not justified and are actually irresponsible. The question itself is ill posed because we never expect to predict such a specific event under any circumstances, but with climate change, the odds of certain kinds of events do change.

The paper focuses on the Russian heat wave in July 2010. But it has an extremely narrow focus and does not examine conditions elsewhere in the hemisphere. The atmospheric circulation is global and interlinked over thousands of miles. It so happens that record breaking flooding occurred in July in China and India, to be followed by record breaking flooding in Pakistan in August. Is this a coincidence? No, it is not but these events are never mentioned.

Indeed it is well established that there is a strong monsoon circulation over Eurasia in summer, and the circulation was strongly enhanced in 2010 by the presence of a developing La Niña (cold waters in the tropical central and eastern Pacific, but often high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the west). The SSTs were exceptionally high in the Indonesian and northern Indian Ocean regions, partly as a consequence of the previous El Niño (that lasted from May 2009 to May 2010), and partly from global warming. The high SSTs fed enhanced moisture into the monsoon, giving rise to the flooding, and helped drive a strong monsoonal circulation that had a direct downward component right over southern Russia. This is in observed data. “What goes up, must come down.”

The authors did not consider these aspects at all. The models they used perform rather poorly in the Asian monsoon and its links to the Mediterranean climate and anomalies such as blocking.

The inability to simulate rainfall and the events is probably more a commentary on the models than whether or not there are influences on the atmosphere that provoked these events. By casting a wider net, these authors too may have concluded that there were indeed highly anomalous events elsewhere, and perhaps could have accounted for the global connectivity of the atmosphere.

The events involved in this Russian heat wave included the drought in the region that certainly promoted higher than normal temperatures. The authors never show any fields of rainfall or its simulation elsewhere (in Asia). They also fail to note that northern Europe has become wetter, especially in the past 30 years and wetter conditions promote cooler conditions and lower temperatures. Had they looked at June and August, they would note an upward trend in temperature in the southern Russian region.

The question in this case is not whether a blocking anticyclone was the “cause” of the heat wave. Of course it wasn’t, it was a symptom. The question should be why was the blocking high so intense and why did it last for 6 weeks with only minor breaks? Many examples are known as to why this sort of thing happens. Natural weather varies widely, but when unusual persistence occurs it is always linked to anomalous forcing of the atmosphere, usually from anomalous SSTs. The best example is El Niño. Hence an external influence (the ocean) puts an imprint on the atmosphere that makes it favorable for anticyclones to develop, persist, and redevelop in some regions, as happened evidently over Russia.

The proximate cause then is the high SSTs south of Asia, which undoubtedly had (and still have) a global warming component. Moreover, global warming no doubt helped the drying and high temperatures, once the conditions favorable for them to occur were present."

2011-07-23 00:12:23CNN Updates
John Hartz
John Hartz

Extreme heat settles over portions of East Coast

  • Weather service: Triple-digit temperatures to remain across the eastern U.S.
  • Weather expected to cool off slightly beginning Sunday, forecasters say
  • About 100 concert-goers overcome by heat at Vans Warped Tour
  • One says she got "overheated and I got really dizzy
2011-07-23 02:27:36
Julian Brimelow

Got to wonder what the death toll would have been before A/C becaome so widespread in N. America, and especially in the USA.


2011-07-23 02:58:51
Julian Brimelow

Rob, thanks.  Trenberth was not at all happy with the Dole et al. paper.



Re Feudale and Shukla (2011a,b)-- yes ocean temperatures are important at teleconnecting to regional weather, we only have to see the impacts of ENOS for that.  But, we must not forget that we are causing the oceans to warm as well.  Feudale and Shukla (2011a) note that:

"The outcome of this analysis on observational data shows the SST as one of the possible factors in enhancing the heat
wave in the European area."

With that said,  I am of the understanding that AGW does not  cause droughts per se (which are mostly caused by blocking events), I do not think that we can (yet) say a particular heat wave was initiated by AGW. But, rather AGW is exacerbating current and recent heat waves  (and droughts and rainfall events via the acceleration of the hydrologicla cycle). We can also expect the return period for such extreme vents to decrease as the planet cotinues to warm.

Feudale and Shukla (2011b) make an interesting observation.  They note that "The results suggest that the SST anomalies had an additional effect of reducing the baroclinicity in the European area reinforcing the blocking circulation".  Well, the reduction of baroclinicity is exactly what the physics dicatate should happen as the planet continues to warm.  So their results suggest that blocking events may increase with time.

Last, but not least, the role of soil moisture deficits cannot be overstated (they played a role in the 1988 USA drough, the European drought and heat wave, the Russian heat waves, and may well have played a regional role in the current N. American heat wave).  This paper by Fischer et al. (2007) speaks to this. Also, see this paper by Hirschi et al. (2011).

2011-07-23 05:26:59Another article...
John Hartz
John Hartz

Record-Setting Heat Wave in U.S. Settles in as "Silent Killer"

2011-07-24 03:30:35
Same Ordinary Fool


Rob and Albatross...............And with further reading I'm  also losing on my main proposal about the possibility of a SkS blogpost about  'heat wave vis-a-vis AGW' issues that could be addressed independent of a specific event (the US heat wave).  I had expected that there'd be enough of them, that someone who knew the subject could turn them into an interesting article.

However, the weather won't cooperate.  The differing weather situations preclude such generalizations.