Steamy, Stormy Summer

October 13, 2016
Hot and Sunny

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 articles. 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.