How to Boil a Continent

June 21, 2016
Hot and Humid Weather

What does it take to boil an egg? Submerge it in hot water. What does it take to boil a continent? We are finding out with this hot and humid weather.

North America is surrounded by hot water and summer breezes are wafting that hot humid air inland. This last weekend, almost everyone got to “Feel the Burn.” 

The oceans are hot and that hot air is going to flow inland over the next couple of months.

A major El Niño just ended. Measurements last month claimed this was the hottest May on record. Now the air masses from the tropics will dominate summer, and they are hot, Hot, HOT! As a result, most of the US and large parts of Canada are steaming.

Even though the hot El Niño has officially ended, that hot water has not disappeared. The hot tropical Pacific water crashes into South America and then flows north and south along the west coasts of the Americas. The prevailing westerly winds carry that hot marine air inland, creating some nasty heat in the western and particularly the southwestern states. Expect California, which declared its drought emergency over last month, to cope with massive evaporation and, probably, a return of drought problems by winter. Sigh! Enjoy watering your lawn while you can, folks!

The hot water from last winter’s El Niño is moving up the West Coast. © James and Evelyn Garriss

The good news is that most of the US has normal to above-normal supplies of subsurface water, which folks can draw upon for farms and cities. Unfortunately, the current heat is drying the surface water, which is bad news for your flowers and lawn. When weather gets hot enough, it can create “flash droughts” so that even areas with near-normal rainfall have so much evaporation that the ground dries up. The US Drought Monitor is reporting a 10% increase in dryness over the last month.

While a wet spring gave the US a good long-term supply of water, the hot summer is creating drier surface soil and short-term drought.

History suggests the upcoming La Niña will increase the dry weather, so think of planting more drought-resistant plants. Willows and asters are going to pout, but your succulents will have a wonderful summer!



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.