Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Extremes of the Weather: Summer 2011 in the U.S.

Are we all thinking it but afraid to ask? What if? What if the extreme weather events of this year continue and accelerate in frequency as each new year unfolds? A growing number of climate scientists have predicted that changes will happen more rapidly than earlier models suggested. Weather determines agricultural production. Period.

As of now, expectations are that our corn yields, which allowed for no room for error, will be down due to weather. It is expected that soybean yields will be reduced due to weather. Cotton yields will be reduced due to weather. Wheat projections for 2012 look ominous because fall planting prospects are dim in winter wheat drought regions. Livestock numbers have been culled due to weather. According to the Financial Times, the Texas drought has cost its agriculture sector $5.2 billion.

Or, perhaps it was just "our turn" after the last couple of seasons brought more disasters to other global regions.
  • Can our insurance companies survive, bearing financial crisis threats in addition to weather related disasters?
  • Can farmers survive if input costs go up at the same time that weather risks to farming increase?
  • How much major infrastructure can this country afford to replace even as our governments can't fund it while weather events increasingly destroy it?
  • How many wildfires can we fight using our state-of-the-art expensive, modern energy intensive methods? Who pays?
  • How many policy errors have been made in the past, allowing for development in higher weather related disaster risk areas for housing, farming, and industrial?
In this post, I've rounded up current NOAA weather maps demonstrating extreme weather and temperatures experienced in the U.S. in July, with the available August updates.

Texas and the surrounding region was extremely hot in August. The heat and drought in Texas is, in part, due to La NiƱa patterns which may continue into 2012:

The Northeast experienced heavy rainfall in August (Hurricane Irene):

Exceptional drought conditions throughout Texas are leading to fires, reduced livestock herds, lower cotton, hay, and other crop production throughout the region, not to mention water scarcity:

JULY RECORDS: In July, Texas had its all time warmest calendar month on record. So did Washington D.C., Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, and Portland Jetport, Maine. Detroit and Fort Wayne, Indiana had their warmest July on record. Dubuque, Iowa had its wettest calendar month on record and Chicago-OHare had its wettest July on record.

HIGHER NIGHTTIME MINIMUM TEMPS: Almost 9,000 daily records were broken or tied in July, including 2,755 highest maximum temperatures and 6,171 highest minimum temperatures (i.e., nighttime records). [Final data not yet available, or at least I couldn't find it.] Warmer minimum nighttime temperatures have many implications for plant growing including loss of water in soil, increased pests, earlier pollination patterns, growth ranges moving north or higher altitude, a longer fire season, and lower grain yields in corn, for example. In the lower of the two maps, below, are record minimum nighttime temps set in July. This also poses a health hazard, as more people die from heat induced stress, than cold, in this country.

There was above-normal heat throughout much of the country in July, with cooler regional temps in the Northwest U.S.:

July's wetter and drier regions:

The latest drought map shows drought patterns expanding, even into Illinois and Iowa: