NOAA links extreme weather to climate change


Hot As A Firecracker…Again. The Summer of 2012 In The Southern Plains

It’s no surprise that it’s another blisteringly hot summer across a vast part of the North American great plains. Currently, parts of OK, AR, KS, MO, & TX are getting the brunt of the sun’s unforgiving rays. To make a long story short, here’s why it’s happening in so many words.

We’ve all heard of the terms “high pressure” or “low pressure” on the television weather broadcasts. All over the planet Earth, areas of high or low pressure develop, strengthen, fizzle out, etc. constantly. Some areas of very intense low pressure surrounded by violent thunderstorms are called (depending on where you live) hurricanes or typhoons. With the heat wave, what we have is high pressure…and lots of it.

Parked squarely over OK is a huge “dome” or mass of high pressure that’s rotating clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Air in the high pressure area will tend to sink…and raise the atmospheric pressure…hence the name “high” pressure. As the air sinks, it compresses which makes it heat up. Adding to the heat is the characteristic for high pressure areas to be relatively cloud free and act like a greenhouse. The sum of this overly simplified explanation is the current heat wave with a bounty of forecasts with temperatures as high as 110F. Large areas of high pressure also tend to be quite sedentary, they really don’t like to move at all. In addition, disturbances in the atmosphere that bring rain or thunderstorms tend to be pushed around the edges of the high pressure. Obviously this wipes out any chance of beneficial rains from moving into the high pressure area. To add insult to injury, drought conditions are worsened by this lack of precipitation.

Hopefully this will help some of you understand the current heat wave that you’re sweating through. Though my explanation is overly simplistic and watered down, I wanted to give those of you who might be curious a basic explanation for the heat. While summer is normally warm to hot, this summer, like the summer of 2011, will likely go down in the record books.

Stay cool, stay hydrated, & stay safe!