Steamy, Stormy Summer

Oct 13, 2016
Hot and Sunny


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What happens when you take North America and simmer it in hot water? You produce a record-breaking heat wave! In late June and early July, we broke over 5,000 hot temperature records.

Click to expand map.

For the last 30 days, US temperatures have been much hotter than usual. (The map is in ˚C, with each degree being 1.8˚F) SourceNOAA

That is what has happened this year. The Gulf Stream and other tropical Atlantic currents have been unusually strong and fast this year. This carried hot tropical water north. (Indeed, some Atlantic fishermen have reported seeing warm water fish arrive four to six weeks early this year.) As a result, North America’s East and Gulf Coasts have seethed with waters that are 1˚ − 3˚C (that’s 1.8˚ − 4.4˚ F) hotter than normal. Prevailing winds have carried the warm marine air inland. As a result, a warm summer has evolved to a broiling summer.

Your local weather person will talk about high and low atmosphere pressure. He or she will explain that there has been a high-pressure area blocking the heat waves so that they can’t sweep out to sea. As a climatologist, I know history. Every time we have the Atlantic this hot, we have blocking and heat waves.

Every time you steam vegetables, you are seeing exactly why the US and Eastern Canada has been so hot this summer.

Click to expand map.

Global water temperatures, compared to normal. Notice the hot water simmering in the Gulf and North Atlantic. Also, notice the developing El Niño. (The map is in ˚C, with each degree being 1.8˚F) SourceNOAA

When you look at the waters off the West Coast, however, you see cool water. Whenever cool air is blown in from the Northwest and it hits the heatwave, it is like a car crash. The collision of cool air and super-hot air produces storms. Just remember the recent “land hurricane” that left millions without power

When you look at the global water temperatures, however, you can see hope in the Pacific.

Do you see all that warm water in the Tropical Pacific? That’s the beginnings of an El Niño. Scientists expect it to become a full El Niño sometime this summer.

The good news is that El Niños typically bring great weather for the US and parts of Canada. In summer, they bring cooler temperatures and more rain to our croplands. In fall, they protect American shores from hurricanes. In winter, they bring warm weather to the north and drought breaking rains to the East.

So as July continues to storm and sizzle, hang in there. El Niño is coming to the rescue.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Why is there blocking

Why is there blocking patterns now? We didnt have that last winter, but shouldnt blocking make a cooler summer? Maybe the el nino that is developing has already started to switch our winds

I live in St. Louis, MO. I

I live in St. Louis, MO. I remember we had a El Niño year 2-3 years ago... But can't remember the weather. What has it historically meant for St. Louis and how long does El Niño last?

Is it possible to tell

Is it possible to tell whether the NAO will go positive, neutral, or negative late summer into fall? or is it still too early? I live in West Virginia and like SOOO many others we also want a cooler wetter fall. I dont wanna have a hard time getting out of summer this year like we did last year. I guess when el nino develops itl do a great job getting us into the fall we all dream of. Not warm and dry like last year. Thats not what we need, i just want "normal" not our fourth warmest winter on record nor coldest. Just average :)

Unfortunately, it isn't. The

Unfortunately, it isn't. The best forecasts only make estimates for 14 days. You can find them here:

Overall, with the Atlantic as warm as it is, the odds slightly favor a negative NAO.

I hate summertime. I dont

I hate summertime. I dont know if you feel the same way, but ive been through so many summers and never have enjoyed it. its nothing but heat and humidity!! Who wants to go outside and melt? not me. I like winter. My grandbaby whos 5 loves the snow. You should have heard her ask "when is it going to snow" all the time. I want our winters back and Id hate to say it but I dont even know if well see one again after this sad year. We had nice, cold winters before this year but we might be in for a brutal one. Soak us and cool us down el nino

I'm in total agreement, which

I'm in total agreement, which is why I live on a mountain in the desert -- low summer humidity and lovely snow for the nearby ski resort.

I don't know where you are located, but I hope the El Nino brings you better weather.

Well this summer is much

Well this summer is much better for us on the gulf coast of Texas. Last year we spent better part of 3 months above 100 and no rain. But did have our usual humidity unlike the very low humidity they had in the midwest.Thank you God for the nice rains we have been getting this past week.No hurricanes and it will be a perfect summer for Texas.

I wrote a blog about driving

I wrote a blog about driving through your lovely state last summer. It hurt to see how bad the drought was!

El Ninos usually reduce the odds of hurricanes hitting Texas. Your state has certainly earned the right to a decent summer.

I love winter... I live in

I love winter... I live in Eastern Pennsylvania. Am I to assume that winter, again, will be without snow and cold???????? I hope that isn't the case.

Thanks for your blog!

Normally El Ninos bring

Normally El Ninos bring Pennsylvania "double dip" winters. It is cool in early and late winter, but warmer than average in mid-winter. Overall, the winter has less snow and cold.

Is the nasty, ugly heat out

Is the nasty, ugly heat out west gonna make its way eastward towards the midwest and east coast once again? looking at it long term, when will summer kinda start to lose its grip on the US? I think its amazing how this year can be so warm!! I'd hate to say its global warming because I dont think thats the case here, there has to be a factor leading to this. Its almost amazing how 2011-12 could be our hottest years ever recorded in history

Sorry, it looks like it will.

Sorry, it looks like it will.

Did or does the number of

Did or does the number of hurricanes that went north straight up the Atlantic without going to land fall or reallly losing a lot of their energy last season have anything to do with this winter's seemingly reversal on getting cooler or cold? Also could our heat wave be strong enough to mix with the Pacific side cooler weather and actually outmix the cool making it warmer and then our weather staying a longer time than expected along with more drying conditions. It looks like hot and dry is here to stay for a while and may actually fuel more of the same. Equator to the Artic does not have very much in the way of change in it's seeming exchage of hot and cold and molecules of moisture, and looks like cold if any may be on the other side of the world where it is suppose to be this time of year but over there also seems a little deminished. On or south of the Equator seems to have it's share of heat also as well as places like Russia where their weather patterns may be out of sinc. Not only are we geeting record heat and dry the rest of the world is also, India and Russia are getting record wet and not so cold. Looks like the equitorial patterns may have lost some of its design to send weather north or south depending on normal and it is keeping a lot more heat instead of sendind it away so that cooler or cold can be vented in on the low side which is normal. Has or is heat accumulations semi-taken over the equator circumnavigation aspect and left what little cold there is mostly over the places that are usually cold instead or recirculating it? In other words, has heat accumulated in the highest reaches of our sphere and stagnated becuase it's hot and heat travels to the upper reaches of our atmosphere, it spirals up instead of sideways and that would be in the spin of earth where diameter is largest right over the equator. Could that be possible?

I find your theory

I find your theory interesting, but when I look at ancient history, I find some similar years.

We have gone through two years of La Ninas, which created very strong trade winds, keeping a lot of tropical air trapped in the tropics. This year, we are seeing weaker winds, and more hot tropical air escaping north.

We need rain now, if it

We need rain now, if it doesn't show up until late July early August you can kiss the crops good by.

I'm so sorry. There are some

I'm so sorry. There are some storms coming. I hope some hit your crops

So all we really gotta do is

So all we really gotta do is hang on in there and tough out the rest of July before the fine beautiful weather comes in later in the summer? and will we actually come out of the warm spell in the fall with the much needed rains soaking the east? rain is good! but how about winter in the mid atlantic and south? more snow for us winter lovers? or another bummer of a season. This blog made my day. Cheers to el nino

If you are in the

If you are in the Mid-Atlantic States, El Niños normally bring warmer weather and wet, stormy springs. Typically, the South gets cooler and wetter winters, eliminating any remnants of drought.

I'm delighted the blog made your day.


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