The record-breaking heat wave across the Midwest continues and what makes it even worse is that many areas that are experiencing the heat are also experiencing drought. The lateast U.S. Drought Monitor show at least three-quarters of the country under abnormally dry conditions or worse. Through all my years of following the Drought Monitor, right now is probably the greatest areal extent of drought conditions that I have seen. There have been more extreme droughts in different sections of the country at times, but this is probably the most widespread.
Here in Wisconsin I saw first hand what the drought looks like. I traveled down to the Dells area over the last couple of days and it looked more like California than Wisconsin. This is the time of year when everything should still be green. Unfortunately all the lawns and wild grass areas were brown. There was hardly a blade of green grass to be found in a few spots. The crops that were not being irrigated were taking a beating. The corn was curling up. The soybeans were turning brown. Another week or two of dry weather and a lot of the un-irrigated crops in that area will be a complete loss for the season. Officially Juneau, Adams, Waushara, and Marquette counties are only indicated as abnormally dry, whereas around Dane county and further south there is a moderate drought, but basically south of Wood and Portage counties it is not great for growing things. I feel bad for all the people experiencing the dry weather. I know how difficult it is to start growing something and then have mother nature bail out. We were lucky here in Marathon county to have a nice rain earlier this week. I hope rain becomes more widespread soon, but it is not looking to good.
Will the drought continue? Unfortunately for the southern half of the state, things do not look all that great. The highest chance of rainfall will be tomorrow (Saturday) as a cold front moves through. Otherwise the rain chances look pretty slim through most of next week. The one good thing is that the cold front moving through the area tonight and tomorrow will cool temps down closer to normal for this time of year. High temps will be in the low 80s from Saturday through Wednesday. We just have to make it through today when the heat index will be above 100 again in the southern half of the area.
If you follow our StormTrack9 facebook page you know that we linked to a story about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) with the question being whether or not this current heat wave is a sign of AGW. This is a good question to ask, and it probably is. Various climate forecasters have called for more extreme weather and more warmth in coming years and decades. One heat wave, drought, or flood, does not make the case, but several in a row with increasing frequency does make the case. We had a record-breaking heat wave last Summer and we have another one this year. This would be evidence that leans in favor of AGW scenarios and theory. For a historical perspective, the current heat does not compare to the 1930s but it is getting a little closer.
In a way, I am glad not too many people or media outlets are carrying the AGW story. Just a few years ago when the AGW discussion was “hot”, it seemed every headline about the weather was about “global warming” destroying the planet. Nearly every single extreme weather event was being blamed on AGW. A strong hurricane? AGW. A drought? AGW. Bee colony collapse disorder? AGW. More asthma? AGW The obesity epidemic? AGW (seriously). It was getting out of hand so much, I had to keep a big list here in the blog of all the things being blamed on AGW. Thankfully, some responsible climatologist must have gotten a hold of weather & science journalists and told them to stop, because single extreme weather events and various maladies of the human condition are not being pegged as frequently to AGW.
However, you should pay attention. If heat waves become more numerous, it is more evidence behind AGW theory. As I have been writing for the last few years, even if you don’t accept AGW theory to any great extent, you should still try to reduce using fossil fuels because they are “dirty” and continue to cause pollution around the world. When it comes too heat waves, geothermal energy is a great low-tech way to go and it is not too expensive if you can do it yourself. The thing about using regular air conditioning is the -while it works great – it adds to the problem of AGW. If the theory is substantially correct, then using the AC (running on electricity form standard fossil fuel power plants) will only cause more heat in the future.
Have a fine Friday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.