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Denver’s September 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of September 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 2.8°F above normal (66.4°F vs. 63.6°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 97°F on the 5th and 6th; they recorded the minimum temperature of 38°F on the 28th.  Here is the Denver temperature September 2013 time series:

 photo Denver_Temps_201309_zps687d6b03.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during September 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

The month started off with a heat wave, as a result of an anomalous high pressure ridge over the western US.  It’s not obvious on this chart, but the week of September 8th ushered in a big change from the early month heat wave, which I discuss in the precipitation section below.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past five consecutive months.  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  Looking back a little further in time, October 2012 broke last year’s extreme summer heat including the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Through September, 2013, there were 57 90°F+ days in 2013, which means 2013 gained sole 4th place status of most 90°F days in one year.  Last year, the hottest summer on record for Denver, there was an astounding 73 90°F+ days!  Thankfully, this year also featured far fewer 100°F+ days than 2012: 2 instead of 13 (a record number).  After last year’s record hot summer, summer 2013 felt comparatively cool, which just goes to show how truly monumental last year’s records were.

I haven’t determined if the NWS (or anyone else) collects record high minimum temperatures (warm nighttime lows) in a handy table, chart, or time series.  Denver’s 68°F on Sep. 3rd was such a record (previously 67, set in 1947), as was Sep. 4th’s 69°F (previously 64°F, set in 1995 and previous years).  I’m curious how Denver’s nightly lows have changed in the past 100+ years.  If I find or put something together, I’ll include it in a future post.

Precipitation

Instead of amazing temperature records (although 97°F in September is very hot!), September saw precipitation records.  Total precipitation was much greater than normal during September 2013: 5.61″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 0.92″!  Most of this fell at DIA on the 14th and 12th of the month (2.01″ and 1.11″).  As I wrote about after the event, Denver and other communities with similar rain totals paled in comparison to southern Aurora and Boulder, which received over 18″ of rain in one week, and more for the month!  Given that the normal annual total precipitation for these places is 15″, Denver and other places received over 1/3 of their yearly annual precipitation total in one month – a month that is normally relatively dry.

During the week of the 8th, the confluence of a slow-moving upper-level low, a surface stationary front, and tropical moisture from both the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico generated record rainfall over the northern Front Range of Colorado, including Denver.  This rainfall led to devastating flooding, from which communities are just beginning to recover.  About the only good news from this natural disaster is it busted the area’s long-term drought.

Interannual Variability

I have written literally hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short of duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.  If temperatures continue to track warmer than normal in most months, the next set of normals will clearly demonstrate a continued warming trend.


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Denver’s August 2013 Climate Summary

Temperature

During the month of August 2013, Denver, CO’s (link updated monthly) temperatures were 2.1°F above normal (74.6°F vs. 72.5°F).  The National Weather Service recorded the maximum temperature of 99°F on the 20th and they recorded the minimum temperature of 52°F on the 9th.  Here is the time series of Denver temperatures in August 2013:

 photo Denver_Temps_201308_zps974cdaa4.png

Figure 1. Time series of temperature at Denver, CO during August 2013.  Daily high temperatures are in red, daily low temperatures are in blue, daily average temperatures are in green, climatological normal (1981-2010) high temperatures are in light gray, and normal low temperatures are in dark gray. [Source: NWS]

The month started off cooler than normal as this year’s very active monsoon continued well into August 2013.  High pressure began to dominate the region again in the middle of the month.  Note the large number of days with daily mean temperatures equal to or greater than 78°F.  This was mainly due to the excessive nighttime heat (note the blue line above the climatological normal lows), but also the daily high temperatures in the mid to upper-90s.

Denver’s temperature was above normal for the past four months in a row.  May 2013 ended a short streak of four months with below normal temperatures.  October 2012 broke last year’s extreme summer heat including the warmest month in Denver history: July 2012 (a mean of 78.9°F which was 4.7°F warmer than normal!).

Through September 4th, 2013, there were 50 90°F+ days in 2013, which ties three other years (1960, 1964, 2011) for 10th most 90°F days.  As of September 5th, the NWS forecast calls for an additional four days with maximum temperatures equal to or greater than 90°F, which would push the yearly total to 54, good for a tie for sixth place.  Last year, the hottest summer on record for Denver, there was an astounding 73 90°F+ days!  Thankfully, this year also featured far fewer 100°F+ days than 2012: 2 instead of 13 (a record number).

I haven’t determined if the NWS (or anyone else) collects record high minimum temperatures (warm nighttime lows) in a handy table, chart, or time series.  Denver’s 68°F on Sep. 3rd was such a record (previously 67, set in 1947), as was Sep. 4th’s 69°F (previously 64°F, set in 1995 and previous years).  I’m curious how Denver’s nightly lows have changed in the past 100+ years.  If I find or put something together, I’ll include it in a future post..

Precipitation

Precipitation was greater than normal during August 2013: 2.78″ precipitation fell at Denver during the month instead of the normal 1.69″.  Most of this fell at DIA on the 22nd of the month (1.94″).  This wasn’t the case for every location in the Denver metro area however since precipitation is such a variable phenomenon.

Precipitation that fell during the past couple of months alleviated some of the worst drought conditions in northern Colorado.  The link goes to a mid-August 2013 post.  Almost all of Colorado continues under at least some measure of drought in early September 2013 (the exception being along the Front Range in northern Colorado, which received almost daily monsoon rainfall in August).  The worst drought conditions (D4: Exceptional) continue to impact southeast Colorado however.  The good news is this area shrank in the last month or so.  Colorado still needs the jet stream to substantially shift position this fall and next spring in order to receive the amount of precipitation required to break the long-term drought.  The last NWS 3-month projection didn’t indicate that this was likely to happen.  Hopefully, for the state’s sake, I hope the NWS is wrong.

Interannual Variability

I have written hundreds of posts on the effects of global warming and the evidence within the temperature signal of climate change effects.  This series of posts takes a very different look at conditions.  Instead of multi-decadal trends, this series looks at highly variable weather effects on a very local scale.  The interannual variability I’ve shown above is a part of natural change.  Climate change influences this natural change – on long time frames.  The climate signal is not apparent in these figures because they are of too short of duration.  The climate signal is instead apparent in the “normals” calculation, which NOAA updates every ten years.  The most recent “normal” values cover 1981-2010.  The temperature values of 1981-2000 are warmer than the 1971-2000 values, which are warmer than the 1961-1990 values.  The interannual variability shown in the figures above will become a part of the 1991-2020 through 2011-2040 normals.  If temperatures continue to track warmer than normal in most months, the next set of normals will clearly demonstrate a continued warming trend.


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Current & Future U.S. Heat Waves

A substantial portion of the U.S. population experienced a heat wave during the past week.  Due to the number of people affected, the media spent some time on the topic.  As opposed to places like Las Vegas or Phoenix, where the “heat is supposed to happen”, folks normally accustomed to rather pleasant summer conditions experienced real heat again.  Heat waves of various intensity happen every year.  This  heat wave is rather intense – it is breaking some heat records.  Some interesting factoids:

Temperatures at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey were recorded at 98 degrees at 1 p.m. local time on Friday, as the mercury hit 93 in Central Park. John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York, recorded temperatures of 100 degrees on Thursday, beating out the previous record set for that date a year ago, and on Friday the heat index there reached 108.

Electricity usage soared to an all-time high in New York City as the work week closed out, provider Con Edison announced, as service hit a peak of 13,214 megawatts around 2 p.m. local time. The previous record was 13,189 megawatts on July 22, 2011, according to the company.

So, some serious heat and serious energy consumption.  The latter proves interesting to look at in more detail: if warming trends continue, power plants will be unable to operate like we expect them to due to water and infrastructure cooling requirements.  That spells trouble for people: the worst heat waves of the future might be accompanied by temporary brownouts and blackouts.  How manageable will heat waves be with no A/C?

What about the warming trend?  If we stay on our current greenhouse gas emissions pathway (the highest considered by climate models), look at the potential number of weeks with 100°F+ temperatures in 2090-2099:

 photo A1FI-warming.gif

Figure 1. Projection of A1FI emissions pathway-derived number of weeks (2090-2099) per with daily maximum temperatures exceeding 100°F.

With this heat wave fresh in mind, imagine what it will be like later this century when there is more than one excessive heat wave per year in the Midwest and along the east coast.  Instead of five days of misery, what will 25 days be like?  How about 50 days of 100°F heat in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska?  When 100°F daytime heat dominates one, two, or even three months every year and high nighttime temperatures accompany it, this week’s heat wave will seem refreshing by contrast.

That’s how we feel in Denver, CO this year.  Instead of 73 total 90°F+ days – 13 of those days at 100°F+ – in 2012 (with June 2012 7.6°F warmer than normal), summer 2013 has been closer to average.  Yes, it’s been warm and only one 100°F day occurred so far this year, but it feels almost pleasant in comparison to last summer when the heat was relentless for months on end.

Three days of excessive heat is difficult to experience.  Three months is currently unimaginable.  How much worse future heat waves get is mostly within our control.  The sooner we significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, the better things will end up for all of us.  But as the above graph demonstrates, the future could be quite hot if we continue along our current emissions pathway too much longer.


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Denver’s Warm December Start Didn’t Last

Through the 20th of December, Denver Colorado’s average temperature measured 7.1°F warmer than average.  I told a friend at the time that a monumental shift in weather would have to take place in order for the final month’s tally to approach normal (31.2°F).  Well, we got that shift.  7 of the next 11 nights would record lows below 10°F, with the month’s lowest low recorded on the 26th of December (-2°F).  7 of the next 11 days would record highs below 32°F.  We started the month on a very different note (Slide 8): four of the first five days saw highs at or above 60°F!

This 2-week period of below-average temperatures was the first such event since February 2012.  Every other month this year was characterized by above-average temperatures.

The precipitation deficit continued through December.  Denver finished 2012 with 10.11″ of liquid equivalent precipitation, which is 4.19″ below normal.

2012

Denver’s 2012 climate summary is as follows:

Highest temperature: 105°F (June 25 & 26), which tied daily, monthly, and all-time temperature values.

Lowest temperature: -6°F (January 11)

Average maximum temperature: 68.4°F (+3.7°F above normal)

Average minimum temperature: 39.3°F  (+3.0°F above normal)

Mean temperature: 53.9°F (+3.4°F above normal)

73 days above 90°F (33 more than normal; almost double the normal number of 40 days)

19 days with max below 32°F (1 fewer than normal)

132 days with min below 32°F (25 fewer than normal)

Total precipitation: 10.11″ (4.19″ below normal)

Snowfall: 38.5″ (15.3″ below normal)

In summary then, Denver was much warmer and drier than normal in 2012.

2013

Looking ahead, low-frequency climate patterns (e.g. ENSO and IPO) are currently neutral and weakly negative.  For the next few months, Denver should see near-average temperatures and near- or below-average precipitation.  Since the Denver area is currently experiencing `Moderate` drought conditions, additional below- or near-average precipitation conditions will likely further worsen drought conditions.  Any recovery from this drought is likely to be long-term.

This has direct implications on peoples’ lives.  Water supply will be strained in early 2013.  Agriculture was hit hard by the drought last year and will likely need to plan for continued drought this year.  That translates to higher consumer prices for staple goods.  Pine forests continue to face stressed environmental conditions (e.g. pine beetle epidemic and drought), setting the stage for another season of terrible forest fires.  Stakeholders worked to mitigate some of the climate effects in 2012.  They will have to remain vigilant and informed in 2013.


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73 90°F+ days (so far) in Denver CO in 2012

I fully expect this to be the last update of this statistic in 2012.  Hopefully, Mother Nature doesn’t prove me wrong.

As of September 11, 2012, with a high temperature of 90°F, there have been 73 90°F+ days – far and away the record number for one calendar year.  That is 12 more than the previous record of 61 set in 2000!!

This NWS link has the  list of the years with most 90°F+ days in a year.  50 90°F+ days used to signal a very warm summer.  60 and 61 days in one year were previous anomalous records – amazing counts all considered.  2012 blows all of those away.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough how unreal the heat wave was this year for Denver and hundreds of other cities and towns across the US in 2012.  Additionally, the chance that so many 90°F+ days have occurred in six years since 2000 is not and cannot be random.

Here is the breakdown of 90°F+ days per month in 2012 (to date):

2 in May

17 in June (6 of those were 100°F+ days; 2 of those tying Denver’s all-time maximum temperature of 105°F)

27 in July (7 of those were 100°F+ days)

20 in August (thankfully none of them 100°F+ days, although 4 of them were 98°F and another 3 were 97°F)

7 so far in September

There have been two nice breaks to the 90s already this month.  A few days ago, the high temperature was only 70°F.  One month ago, that was slightly warmer than our nightly low temperature.  Moreover, the low temperatures dipped all the way down to 47°F for two nights in a row – what a relief!  There was a brief and light amount of rain associated with a cold front that passed through the region in my neck of the woods. Another cold front passed through the area in the early evening today.  Temperatures are already down in the low 60s and it has rained a little more tonight again.

We’re not totally out of the woods for 90°F+ days.  It’s still the first third of the month of September.  If another ridge builds over the area, the temperature could climb back above 90°F, but each day it gets a little less likely.  This area saw no relief from Hurricane Isaac in terms of precipitation either.  Areas in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys saw significant drought relief after Isaac’s landfall near New Orleans, but the West and High Plains remain quite dry.

I can say unequivocally I would rather not challenge the top-10 90°F+ day list again any time soon.  Given the state of our climate system, I may not get what I want however.  The probability that we will witness more summers like 2012 are increasing with time.


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67 90°F+ days (so far) in Denver CO in 2012

As of the September 1, 2012, there have been 67 90°F+ days – far and away the record number for one calendar year.  That is 6 more than the previous record of 61 set in 2000!

The list of the number of 90°F+ days in a year can be found at this NWS link.

Here is the breakdown of 90°F+ days per month in 2012 (to date):

2 in May

17 in June (6 of those were 100°F+ days; 2 of those tying Denver’s all-time maximum temperature of 105°F)

27 in July (7 of those were 100°F+ days)

20 in August (thankfully none of them 100°F+ days, although 4 of them were 98°F and another 3 were 97°F)

1 so far in September

August 2012 went down in Denver history as the 5th warmest and 4th driest on record.  The average temperature for the entire month was 75.0°F, 2°F cooler than August 2011.  The total rainfall for the month occurred during one storm – 0.11″.  That monthly total is 1.58″ below the monthly average and 0.09″ more than the driest August on record in 1924.

Today and the next two days are forecasted to be 90°F+, followed by two days of mid-80s.  It would be incredibly significant if 2012 recorded 1/6 more 90°F+ days as the previous record.  This week might not see all of the 90°F+ days (although I certainly hope they end on Tuesday!) as short heat waves can set up in mid-September.  Many folks along the Front Range are looking forward to autumn.


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Denver Ties Record For Most 90°F+ Days

On the 26th of August, 2012, Denver, CO tied the record for the most number of 90°F+ days at 61!

This ties the year 2000 for the most number of 90°F+ days in one year.

After setting the record for the hottest July in Denver history and a very warm start to August, 8 out the past 10 days were below 90°F.  The past week and a half has felt very, very comfortable when compared to the record number of 100°F+ days recorded in June and July (13).

What is the difference between that record-setting July and August 2012?  July’s average temperature was 78.9°F!  The average temperature through 25 days in August 2012 is only 74.1°F, or 4.8°F cooler.  The biggest difference hasn’t been the maximum temperatures, it has been the minimum temperatures: instead of high 60s, nightly low temperatures have been much more comfortable in the high 50s.

The record number of 90°F+ days will fall – that is certain now.  The next three days are all forecasted to be 90°F+, and Thursday’s forecasted high of 89°F will also obviously challenge 90°F.  90°F+ days can also occur in September, so the total number may not be recorded on Wednesday.

While August 2012 will not be in the top-10 warmest all-time, it just might challenge the 4th-driest August on record.  Current month-to-date precipitation is only 0.11″.  1924 was the driest at 0.02″, 1900 and 1917 were 2nd driest at 0.05″, and 1960 was 3rd driest at 0.06″.  Just behind 2012 is 1974 at 0.16″.  It won’t take much of a rainstorm to boot 2012 out of the top-10, however.  The 10th-driest year one record is 1985 at 0.28″.  It does not look likely at this time that any additional precipitation will be recorded at Denver.


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3rd Most 90°F+ days In Denver’s History

A second cool front moved over the Denver, CO area on the 12th of August, preventing temperatures from climbing over 90°F for only the second day this month.  Through the 12th, the NWS recorded 10 90°F+ days, including 3 days at 98°F – narrowly missing another 100°F reading.

Total 90°F+ Days

The total number of 90°F+ days for Denver so far in 2012 is now 56!  That value ties for 3rd most 90°F+ days in Denver’s history, which occurred in 2002.  Unlike 2002, Denver will very likely record additional 90°F+ days, which will move 2012 into at least sole possession of 3rd most 90°F+ days.  Still ahead of 2012 and 2002 in the record books: 60 days in 1994 and 61 days in 2000.

The high temperature in Denver could threaten 90°F, but might fall just short.  Tomorrow and Wednesday should see 90°F+.  The NWS forecasts includes another cool front to move through the area – giving us high temperatures of only 75°F or so!  To put that in context, nighttime low temperatures were just slightly cooler than that early last week (69°F).  Through Friday then, Denver should record 58 90°F+ days.  The weekend could provide one or two more 90°F+ days (likely just one).

That takes us just past mid-August.  There will be a decent number of chances through mid-September to record additional 90°F+ days.  So at this point, I feel confident that 2012 will challenge 2000 for the year with most 90°F+ days.  In contrast, I am more convinced than last week that Denver will record no additional 100°F+ days in 2012.

The above does not mean that the drought affecting Denver or Colorado is anywhere near over.  We need serious precipitation and that isn’t likely to occur for a number of weeks still.  Perhaps as we move into autumn and ENSO returns to neutral or weak El Nino conditions, some sub-tropical moisture will find its way over the US again.


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Denver’s Temperatures Continue March To Records

On the heels of the warmest July in Denver’s history, the first five days of August were also warmer than normal.  Due to a cool front that made its way through the metro area Friday night, Saturday’s high temperature was only 83°F.  Sunday was just as warm as Friday, however, with highs of 97°F and 98°F, respectively.

Through the first five days of the month, the average high has been 93.0°F.  The average temperature over those five days was 77.1°F – a clear reflection of how relatively cool Saturday’s temperatures were.  The departure from normal tracked above 4°F, but is only 2.7°F now.  You can bet that departure reading will edge back up toward 4°F given the lack of weather systems on the horizon.

I still think Denver’s 100°F+ days are likely over for 2012.  Despite my knowledge of future climate projections for the area, I sincerely hope 100°F+ days remain rare in my personal future.  As many other cities across the US can attest, 100°F+ days are simply miserable, in addition to being dangerous to people’s’ health.

The Denver area continues to experience Severe to Extreme drought conditions (see figure below).  I don’t think the last week’s rains will make a serious dent in those conditions.

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Figure 1.  Drought conditions across Colorado as of July 31, 2012.  The orange contour indicates Severe drought conditions; the red contour indicates Extreme drought conditions; the brick-red contour indicates Exceptional drought conditions.

In the past couple of weeks, conditions have shifted spatially but haven’t worsened substantially.  Some areas have actually seen slight relief from Extreme to Severe conditions.  This is a shift from three months ago when, as the table in the figure shows, 0% of the state experienced Extreme conditions while 65-73% of the state experienced similar conditions in the past two weeks.  Weather conditions over the next few weeks will determine the level of drought the state experiences.

Consecutive 90°F-day streaks

Saturday’s high of only 83°F (which felt fantastic!) also stopped the streak of consecutive 90°F+ days from early July through early August at 24.  Once the NCDC confirms the temperatures, this streak will match the longest streak in Denver’s history, first set from July 13th through August 5th, 2008.  Denver’s earlier streak of 15 consecutive 90°F+ days should tie for 5th on the all-time list.

Total 90°F+ Days

The record for total 90°F+ days in one calendar year is also in serious trouble.  Through the 5th of August (yesterday), Denver had already recorded 50 such days in 2012 (2 in May, 17 in June, 27 in July, and 4 in August).  That is enough days to tie for 9th on the all-time list.  It seems incredible to someone who has lived in the area for a long time, but the all-time record of 61 90°F+ days seems easy to reach at this point in 2012.  Denver has already surpassed 90°F today, and the NWS predicts similar highs for the next four days.  That will mark 55 90°F+ days, good for a tie for the 4th most 90°F+ days and only 6 days from the all-time mark.  The GFS model provides a glimpse for days beyond Friday and the pattern might change over the upcoming weekend: 90°F is the forecasted high for both days.  Given recent history, I can easily envision highs of 91°F or 92°F, but I look forward to days that can no longer climb above 90°F.


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Hottest July on Record for Denver, CO

As expected, July 2012 went down in the history books as the hottest July in recorded history (140+ years) for Denver, CO.  A large number of cities echoed this theme throughout the High Plains and Midwest.  I will cover some of those places in future posts.  This post is all about the capital city of Colorado.

The average temperature in Denver during July, 2012 was 78.9°F.  That value is 4.7°F above normal – so Denver regularly experiences rather warm Julys: 74.2°F.

July 2012 is also very likely to go down in the books as the hottest month ever in Denver’s history.  I posted this information recently and here it is again: the confirmed hottest month in Denver history prior to July 2012 was July 1934 – during the middle of the Dust Bowl years – with an average temperature of 77.8°F:

10 WARMEST JULS
(1872-2011)

77.8 1934 #
77.7 2005
77.6 2008
77.3 1936
77.1 1939
76.9 1966, 2003
76.8 1954
76.7 2000, 2001
76.6 1901
76.4 1980

Beating a monthly average temperature record by 1.1°F is significant.  It is even more significant when you consider June 2012 was also the warmest June on record at 75.0°F, which was an astounding 7.6°F warmer than normal!  June 2012 beat June 2004 for the warmest June on record by an also significant 1.5°F.  To put it in a nutshell: 2012 has been extremely warm.

July 2012 missed another top-10 listing – this one for precipitation.  With the weak return of monsoon flow near the end of the month, 0.06″ of rain fell, which pushed July 2012′s precipitation total all the way up to … 0.48″.  That is 1.68″ below average.  But it was enough to rank July 2012 as the 11st driest July on record, missing the top-10 by 0.03″ (1920).

Consecutive 90°F-day streak

I have also recently written about the long strings of 90°F+ days Denver has experienced (suffered?).  Through the end of July, Denver has recorded 21 straight days of 90°F+ maximum temperatures.  That is the 2nd longest such streak in Denver’s recorded history (the longest so far is 24).  There was another long streak from late June through early July: 15 consecutive days.  2012 will be only the 4th year that 2 separate 10+ day streaks occurred during the same calendar year.  The longest streak could be seriously challenged this year: today and the next two days’ high temperatures are predicted to be 90°F+.  Saturday could end the streak as the upper-level ridge of high pressure shifts to the east slightly and a weak cool front moves over Denver from the north: Saturday’s high is expected to be 85°F, then return to 90°F+ Sunday.

The total number of 90°F+ days so far in 2012 is now 46: 2 in May, 17 in June, and 27 in July.  Those 27 90°F+ days in July also set another record.  The previous record was 26, set in 2000 and 2008.  In Denver’s recent climatological period, an average of 32 90°F+ days occur.  8 more days of 90°F+ temperature need to occur in 2012 to get into the top-9 list with 50 days.  The year with the most 90°F degree days was 2000 with 61.  Given the extensive heat that has occurred so far in 2012, I would not be surprised to see that record challenged.  Of course, it will take at least 2 more weeks to see how realistic such an event might be.

The seven days of 100°F+ in July 2012 ties the record set in 2005.  Of course, the six 100°F+ days in June 2012 set its own record.  The combination of 100°F+ days in June and July (13 days) also set a significant record by almost doubling the record set in 2005.

Lastly, this summer could be a really bad anomaly that is mostly natural or it could be caused in part by our changing climate.  Tying specific events such as the 2012 heat wave and drought to climate change is an extremely difficult proposition given the relative lack of robust observational data.  It is further challenged by the occurrence of multi-decadal droughts and heat waves that occurred in the geologically recent past (i.e., within the past 2000 years).  Clearly, those events were not anthropogenic in nature.  Discerning the influence of anthropogenic forcing on current and recent droughts is not straightforward.  As with many other phenomena, we might have to wait decades still before such signals are identified in the observational record.  Suffice to say, this year’s North American heat wave and drought are severe and anomalous.  It remains to be seen how much resilience and capacity is possessed by affected societies.  One bad year is easily survived given the state of technology we possess.  How many bad years might be necessary to challenge that technological state?  How robust are our agricultural and water resource policies, to name just a couple?  How much of a shock can our economic system handle given current weaknesses that remain unaddressed?

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