Friday, August 3, 2012

The Summer of 2012 -- Too Hot to Handle?

Temperature anomalies for June 2012 across North America. Orange/red = above normal, blue = below normal, white = normal

Author: Dauna Coulter

August 3, 2012: This past June more than 170 all-time US heat records were tied or broken--many of them originally set in the historically hotter months of July and August. And with a drought plaguing much of the country, the ground is as dry and crispy as a saltine cracker.

By early July, 56% of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought. That's the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Fires scorched over 1.3 million acres across the US in June, reducing hundreds of homes to ashes in the West. Just imagining prospects for the rest of the summer is enough to bring sweat to your brow. And last winter is partly to blame.

"799 daytime heat records were broken in the first five days of January in the US," says Jake Crouch, a climate scientist from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. "Last year's was the fourth warmest winter since 1895. And it was dry, with a dearth of snowfall in many places. During most of this past winter and spring, a positive North Atlantic Oscillation pressure pattern kept the jet stream further north and the US warmer and drier than normal."

With little moisture in the soil to evaporate and dissipate some of the sun's energy, more solar radiation is converted to sensible heat, he says.
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