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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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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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Hottest Temperatures Ever Recorded In TX/OK Panhandles & KS

This last weekend ended on a brutal temperature note for the folks in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles as well as southwestern Kansas.  A ridge of high pressure is being exacerbated by the worst drought the region has faced in recorded history.  Underlying all of that are the warmer base conditions that exist thanks to climate change.  If we don’t stop our greenhouse pollution problem, these records won’t stand for very long.

Just how hot did it get?

117F in Childress, tying the city’s all-time record high temperature and breaking the previous daily record by 9F.

112F in Lubbock.

111F in Medicine Lodge.

110F in Dodge City.

109F in Amarillo.

108F in Garden City.

CapitalClimate has a post detailing more of the records set.

Dr. Jeff Masters points out that these temperatures are boosted by the most extreme drought on record for these same areas.  Without moisture in the soil or plants in the region, the incoming solar radiation can heat up the earth and therefore the atmosphere much more effectively.  Masters’ post includes a graphic showing current drought conditions across Texas.  Not much of the state remains outside of `Exceptional` drought conditions.

Welcome to the new normal.  Don’t like it?  Then it’s time to start demanding climate action.


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Jan-Aug 2010 Hottest On Record: NASA & NOAA

You have likely heard or read by now that the first 8 months of global temperature in 2010 were the warmest of any such period in recorded history.  Unlike earlier months this year, I’ve started to see more coverage of this in the corporate media.  Unfortunately, the coverage I have seen has been short and lacking in critical context.  Most of the coverage has actually been of anecdotal situations, like the record-shattering 2010 Russian heat wave.  Stories about the above-average Atlantic hurricane season and the Pakistani floods leaving tens of millions displaced have typically not included much, if any, notation that record heat has been recorded across the globe.

NOAA recorded the 3rd warmest August on record; the 2nd warmest Jun-Aug on record; and Jan-Aug 2010 tied the same time period from 1998 as the warmest on record.  The most intense El Nino in recorded history occurred in 1997-1998, which helped push global temperatures to record levels.  The El Nino of 2009-2010 wasn’t nearly as strong, but added to the background warming brought about by global warming to match the warmest Jan-Aug in modern history.

August 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.67°C (+1.206°F) surface temperature anomaly for August 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  August 2010 had the 7th highest anomaly of Augusts in the NASA dataset, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.6°C (+1.08°F) surface temperature anomaly for August 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the two warmer Augusts observed were in 1998 (+1.3°F) and 2009 (+0.62°C  or +1.12°F).

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The Heat Continues: NASA & NOAA Detail Warmest Jan-Jun On Record in 2010

The first half of 2010 has been the hottest globally in recorded history.  A small change from last month: I briefly saw this headline at the top of a corporate media outlet: MSNBC.  I should have taken a screen-shot because I saw it at 10:45P local time last night and it had been replaced by 11:00P when I looked again.  So it would be untruthful to claim, for this month at least, that you couldn’t have seen this story covered in a prominent way by the corporate media.  I will lament that it took four straight months of record warmth before they did, however.  I will also lament that it was replaced, nearly in the middle of night, by other headlines within minutes – short shrift for such an important topic.

In a similar fashion as last month, the NOAA analysis of global temperatures have marked the warmest month of June, the warmest 3-month April to June period and, along with NASA, the warmest 6-month January to June period in recorded human history.  That makes for one heck of a headline, doesn’t it?

June 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.59°C (+1.062°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  June 2010 joined June 2005 as the third highest anomaly in the NASA dataset, behind the record anomaly from 1998 of 0.69°C (1.24°F) and the 0.62°C (1.116°F) anomaly from 2009, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.68°C (+1.224°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest June was observed in 2005: +0.66°C (+1.188°F).

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