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COMMENTARY

There's heat – and there's HEAT

Up to this point, July has been warmer and drier than average in Western New York. Buffalo is running 2.7 degrees above average for its mean monthly temperature, which is far from unusual. Rainfall, after a surplus for most of the year, is running well below average for the month. It’s at just 1.04 inches with 2.45 inches being average. For the first time this year, I can write “we could use some rain.” After all, it’s an important time for many of our crops. Deep soil moisture is fine, but shallow topsoil is growing crustier. That’s quite typical for this time of year.

Some heat and humidity will be getting reestablished over the days to come. Temperatures will be moving back above average, and dew points will begin to move from producing moderate, slightly sticky humidity to muggier conditions by Sunday. A southwest flow behind a warm ridge of high pressure will bring dew points back to the mid to possibly upper 60s, with inland temperatures reaching the mid 80s.

Believe it or not, the difference between mid 60s dew points and last week’s low-mid 70s dew points will definitely be noticeable. In other words, this will be typical midsummer heat and humidity but the word “oppressive” will not apply. A few showers and thundershowers may pop up during afternoon heating both weekend days, with the better chance on Sunday. Even then, the breeze off 74 degree Lake Erie will probably shadow the Niagara Frontier with more stability, keeping the bulk of these few cells over hilly terrain inland, to the south and southeast. We’ll remain in the warm and humid southwest flow on Monday, with more scattered showers and thundershowers. By Tuesday, a weak cold front will be approaching WNY, triggering a little more convection. Behind the front, a more comfortable high pressure ridge will take our dew points back down, and bring in some modest cooling:

Ahead of the front, temperatures will reach run well above average: \

By midweek, behind the front, readings will be near or slightly below the average high of 80:

Total rainfall over the next seven days is forecast to range from less than quarter inch up to a half inch and coverage will be spotty. If you have a lawn beginning to get crunchy, it probably will stay that way and, for some crops, some minor irrigation may be necessary.

There are no signs of that hot upper level ridge of high pressure rebuilding over the eastern U.S. between now and at least Aug. 10. This means we will avoid the extremes which hit so much of the East last week:

This week, truly extraordinary extremes gripped most of western Europe in a deadly heatwave. On Thursday, air with Saharan origins smashed records in city after city on a continent where air conditioning is in spare supply. Paris hit its all time highest temperature at 109 degrees, topping the old record by an incredible 4.7 degrees. Breaking an all-time high by such a large margin is “off the charts” heat. Although the readings on the map (courtesy of Finnish meteorologist Mika Rantanen) here are in Celsius, with 100 degrees Fahrenheit beginning at 37.8 Celsius:

100+ degree temps were observed in places most Americans don’t associate with extreme heat, including the Netherlands and parts of the London metro area. The British Met Office reports a Cambridge location Thursday reached 38.7C, which would be the highest temperature ever recorded in the United Kingdom. All-time national highs were also observed in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

To break all-time high temp records by such a large margin becomes statistically less likely at the hottest time of the year; margins for such July records are normally small. This incredible and dangerous heat, besides being unprecedented over record-keeping history (Belgium’s records go back to 1833) has the clear fingerprints of the mean warming climate tied to human activity. The warming in the Arctic, at twice the rate of most of the rest of the world, leads to these extremely high amplitude blocking patterns due to the weakened, buckling jet stream directly linked to a warmer Arctic. This extremely warm ridge of high pressure is actually modeled to shift from western Europe to the high latitudes during this weekend. Seeing such a hot ridge move to northern Sweden is mind-boggling.

Via meteorologist Zack Labe, NASA data in the arctic shows May-June to be the warmest since 1979, when such records began.

Arctic sea ice is the lowest it has been at this time of the year on record. We may be headed to an all-time low ice minimum at the end of the melt season, which would lead to a shorter freeze season with thinner ice as a result, setting up the negative feedback mechanism through the winter into next year. Peer review and evidence-based science now plainly shows the human activity-based warming is accelerating, and increasing hazards to public safety. In Europe, many people had avoided air conditioning for reasons of energy conservation and because such deadly heat waves were uncommon decades ago. That’s no longer the case: As The Washington Post reports from Europe: “Punishing heat — in historic cities largely without widespread air conditioning, especially in homes — has become Europe’s new normal.”

“We are in a situation where people cannot live,” said Sacha Gaillard, a technician with Les Bons Artisans, a French company that, among other things, installs air conditioners. Gaillard noted that the company’s air conditioning business across France has increased exponentially in the past five years. “[People] can’t sleep at their apartments. Air conditioning is no longer a comfort. It’s a necessity. It’s as if people had no heat in winter,” Gaillard said.

As I’ve written numerous times, in most of the Northern Hemisphere, record high temps now outnumber record low temps by a 2:1 ratio. A study led by National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist Gerald Meehl projects by the end of this century, that ratio will increase to 15:1. The handwriting is on the wall.

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