Thursday, June 22, 2017

Record Heat Wave Out West Seems Part of a Growing Worldwide Trend

When I was a kid, there was a legend that in some parts of the world, like in the Sahara desert, it could get so hot, that you could crack an egg and cook it on the ground. 

Well, temperatures reached that level out west over the past few days. Specifically, it was that high in the Mojave Desert, reaching from Death Valley in California, throughout southern Arizona (including Tuscon and Phoenix) and in cities like Las Vegas, stretching all the way to St. George, Utah, the eastern most extreme of the Mojave. 

Indeed, temperatures in parts of the west were so staggeringly high, to the point that they were downright dangerous. Severe burns could occur immediately if someone fell on pavement, because temperatures for pavement (which absorbs the heat) reached close to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). It was so hot, that flights to Phoenix were cancelled, because some planes simply could not handle that level of heat. In fact, it was so hot, that apparently people could feel it even with their eyes, which could dry out surprisingly quick in that degree of heat - and remember out there, it is what they call a "dry heat."

Yes, they are used to extreme heat out there, but even this heat wave took many residents by surprise, and was responsible for some dangerous trends. That included overuse of electricity, because everyone is inside, and everyone was cranking heir air conditioning. Some drivers had to wear gloves while driving, and some businesses covered their door handles. Scorpions became a potential hazard, as they tried to cool themselves off and quench their thirst in backyard swimming pools. The pavement for some highways buckled from the excessive heat.

There were other unusual dangers emanating from this heat. These included wildfires burning, dehydration (which does not require these kinds of temperatures, but which can be more common in such unbelievable heat), and rattlesnakes becoming a more common site.

All of those are unusual indicators of just how hot it got recently in these southwestern regions.

And that's saying something, trust me. I mean, my son and I went out west during both of the previous summers (we are not going out west this summer, unfortunately), and both times, we experiences multiples days of temperatures in or around (and often over) 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).

Temperatures in certain parts of Death Valley reached 129 degrees Fahrenheit (53.8 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday, which was the hottest day of this heat wave.

Record extreme heat is something that we have seen throughout the world now in the last couple of years. From the Mojave Desert in North America, to eastern Australia earlier this year, and to Kuwait last year, temperatures have reached scorching levels that made it downright dangerous for residents of these regions. 

Last year in Kuwait, temperatures reached a sweltering 54 degrees Celcius (129 degrees Fahrenheit), which at least challenged the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the world's history. Going back over a century ago, to July 1913, temperatures in Death Valley, California, reached a staggering 56.7 Celcius (134 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Earlier this year in Australia, a record heat wave brought temperatures to the mid-40's Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) and even reached up to 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). 

What makes this remarkable is that all of these places - the Mojave desert out west, Australia, and Kuwait - all are very familiar with extreme heat conditions. Anyone who knows anything about these regions already knows that these can be very hot places during the summer - dangerously hot places under normal circumstances. Yet, the record temperatures reached in each in recent years was extreme even by their standards!

Of course, here in the United States, we have seen evidence of more extreme weather conditions like this. From record droughts out west, to flooding in the Mississippi Delta, to record heat recently, to record cold temperatures and the "Polar Vortex" during the winters, and two massive superstorms that caused a tremendous amount of damage, we seem to have endured increasingly extreme weather.

Now, I know that these record hot temperatures being experienced by Americans living in the desert Southwest are weather events, and not necessarily indicative of being the result of climate change. There is no way to prove that it is associated, based on the limitations of our science at the moment.

That said, I remember how a few years ago, we had one supposed leader in Congress, Senator Jim Inhofe, who brought in a snowball from outside and displayed it while giving a speech to deny the legitimacy of climate change. I remember debating something similar with a friend and coworker during a massive snowstorm of over two feet, when he felt that this snowstorm disproved the global warming "theory." I told him that just because it was a cold day in a small town in New York state, that this did not prove that his skepticism of climate change was correct. After all, it is a "global" theory, not simply a local one. And likewise, I have no delusions that because it was especially hot in the desert these past days, that this serves as confirmed evidence of climate change.

However, I think that it would be fair to somehow get Senator Inhofe to go out west and make his climate change skeptical speeches right during these tremendous heat spells. If he is so narrow minded and self-serving (in a corrupt way) as to tell the American people that climate change does not exist because there was snow outside of his offices in Washington, then he should also look at all the evidence, and that includes a sweltering day of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit out in the Mojave Desert.

Who knows? Maybe he can draw a crowd, and maybe he can be as convincing to his supporters about how these dangerously hot days disprove climate change. We know that his "evidence" certainly would not stand up in the science field, but at least then, he would be showing real commitment, and not just convenient opportunism in his denial! Until then, I wish he would just finally shut up!

In the meantime, to anyone living out West, please do everything in your power to stay cool, to stay indoors in air conditioning, and to perhaps also check on your neighbors to make sure that they are okay, as well. This would be especially true if they are elderly.

When my son and I took our trips out west to the desert, we were both impressed with the incredible wealth of natural beauty and open space there. Indeed, if you live out there, you have been blessed with some of this incredible beauty. However, this is not the time to go out there and admire it. Stay inside, and stay cool and healthy, please!

Arizona heatwave: Strange consequences of extreme heat by Naomi Lim BBC News, Washington, June 21, 2017:

Planes, Road Burns And Snakes: 5 Things That Extreme Heat Brings by Amita Kelly, June 21, 2017:

Excessive Heat Warnings Issued for Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona by CNN Wire and Cindy Von Quednow, JUNE 20, 2017:

Extreme heat shatters power records in Arizona by Ryan Randazzo, The Republic |, June 21, 2017:

Tourists, extreme heat fans flock to Death Valley by Todd Walker, Jun 21, 2017:

Australia's heatwave continues with record temperatures forecast

Heat Wave Breaks Records in Australia February 21, 2017:

Kuwait swelters in 54C heat – what could be the highest temperature ever recorded on earth by Thair Shaikh, Saturday 23 July 2016:

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