I was expecting that yesterday would be the hottest day of the year. Even though we had quite a bit of moisture in the ground to prevent temps from rising up to 100, I thought we would at least reach 96. Here in Wausau the official high temperature was 94 which makes it a tie for the hottest day of the year. It is also the 4th time this Summer we have hit 94 degrees. There is still a chance we could see temps a little warmer than 94 but the odds go down every day as we now head toward Fall, especially if we continue to have adequate rainfall. If we would happen to have a dry spell in early to mid August, then that would enhance our chance of seeing middle or upper 90s for high temps – not that anyone would really want that. The latest we have ever had 94 degrees or warmer was September 22nd of 1937. The only city in our area that had a record yesterday was Wisconsin Rapids – which ties the old record of 96.
The current hot weather might have you wondering if it will continue into the second half of Summer. For some quidance on the query we can turn to the Climate Prediction Center long range monthly outlooks which were just released yesterday. For August, the computer models are indicating “EC” or equal chances that temps or precipitation will be above or below normal. It doesn’t mean that temps and precipitation will be normal, just that there isn’t any definite trend the models have latched onto to lend confidence to an above or below normal forecast.
The situation is different for the August-September-October 3-month outlook. For this period, the computer models are predicting a greater chance of above normal temps than below normal temps. It is not a guarantee that temps will be above normal, just that the chances are greater for above normal temps. As far as I am concerned, above normal temps during the Fall, especially the early Fall (September and October) is something to really hope for. Fall is my favorite time of year and if 70 degree temps hang on in the football season and Fall color season, it would be awesome.
Another weather tracking update was released today and that is the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost all year Wisconsin has been 100% drought free…until now. Our area had plenty of rain during the last 10 days but southern Wisconsin has been left out a bit. For the first time this year, part of the state is now indicated as “abnormally dry”. The fraction of the state experiencing dry weather is only 10.03% so that is good news. It is a whole lot better than Texas and Louisiana where some form of drought covers 100% of those states.
With all the talk about heat there is also a lot of talk about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) recently. Here is one of those stories which seems to report common sense – warmer oceans will melt ice faster. The key to this story is that some parts of the ocean might warm up faster than previously thought. Some people are wondering if the warming of the antarctic ocean is leading to the decline in krill populations and thus stress upon Penguin colonies. In this instance, the loss of sea ice might be having an indirect affect on krill populations but more likely explanations are that people are harvesting more krill out of the oceans for supplements and that large krill-eaters like whales are not hunted as much as in the past and are thus putting more pressure upon krill numbers.
Melting ice near the poles of the earth would of course cause ocean’s to rise and many people say it is too late to stop huge impacts from occurring. The main negative impacts would be along coastal land areas. As I have mentioned before, the rise in ocean levels is not all that bad per se except for the fact that people have built some very expensive assets (houses all the way up to cities) very near the coasts over the last 100 years. As far as other environmental problems go, I am not as worried as some. During the last interglacial period of the earth’s climate the water levels were over 8 meters (over 24 feet) higher than today and the ecosystem survived.
Part of the ecosystem that might be working against any efforts to reduce greenhouse gases from building up in the atmosphere is soil microbes. Recent research reveals that soil microbes might produce more methane and nitrous oxide as the carbon dioxide level of the atmosphere goes up.
Of course, during any discussion of AGW, the subject of reducing emissions always comes up and I often cover alternative energy strategies here in the blog. One particular technology/process I have followed over the last couple of years is that of carbon sequestration. This is where a power plant would send all of its CO2 gas effluent under ground where it would stay “safely” tucked away for years and years. Some pilot programs have begun to determine the viability of carbon capture and storage but it is not looking too good at this point. The problem is that it is not very cost effective. The companies that hhave been involved in the pilot programs suggest that more government money is needed if they are to continue or expand what they have started.
A couple more radical proposals to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions would be to use more wood when building things and to eat lab-grown meat. Building more things with wood would keep more carbon locked up on the surface for many decades. It is a good idea that could take a very small percentage of carbon out of the air. The main problem is that there are not too many applications for wooden structures except homes. With regards to lab-grown meat, yes it would likely be more energy efficient than growing cows, but I am unsure many people would eat it. I don’t think I would have any reservations, as long as the price was right and it was a reasonable facsimile of the real stuff. I think it would be hard to replicate the flavor of natural meat, but the nutrition would still be there.
Have a good Thursday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.