The Northeast Heatwave

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:08 AM GMT on July 07, 2010

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Hi, Dr. Rob Carver, filling in for Jeff while he's on vacation.

The most significant weather event in the US on July 6, 2010 didn't show up on any radar. The geostationary satellites didn't see it in their constant watch over the Earth's atmosphere. Instead, the tale of this event was told by the thermometers, because the heatwave in the Northeast was the most significant event for July 6, and it will likely be the most important weather story for July 7.

The heat wave covers Pennsylvania to Maine, but Tuesday's worst was centered over New York City. All six of the stations used by the New York NWS office for climate reports (Central Park, La Guardia, JFK, Islip, Bridgeport, and Newark) set or tied the daily high temperature record. Newark and Central Park both reached 103 degrees F.

How unusual is this heat wave?
Figures 1 and 2 show how warm the highs and lows are compared to 30 year averages. Unless you were at the Great Lakes, the Midwest and Northeast have highs well above normal, with 10-15+ degree F differences over the coastal cities of the Northeast. Using my gridded temperature data, the low for New York City was 6 degrees F above normal, which should happen 30% of the time (1.1 standard deviations away from normal). The high was roughly 20 degrees above normal, which should happen only 0.29% of the time (3.04 standard deviations away from normal). This is an unusually strong heat wave.

Why it's hot
Basically, it's because there is "the Bull of a high pressure ridge [over the NE US]" to quote the Mount Holly NWS office forecast discussion. The large ridge of high pressure is forcing air to slowly descend across the Northeast, preventing clouds from forming. Without no clouds and plenty of daylight, the Sun heats the ground which then heats the air.

When will it cool down?
That's an excellent question. A trough of low pressure off the coast will bring onshore winds to the Tri-State area and MA by Thursday, so they should cool down a bit. The southern part of the heat wave, DC and Philadelphia, will have to wait for a cold front to arrive from the Great Lakes sometime Saturday to get relief.

Population affected
As Figure 3 shows, heat advisories covered most of the urban areas of the northeastern US. By my calculations, over 32 million people were under a heat advisory. Different offices have different guidelines for heat advisories. The NWS office responsible for New York issues a heat advisory if the heat index will be above 95 deg. F for two or more days or if the index will be above 100 deg. F for any length of time.


Fig.1 Plot of the difference between maximum temperature (the high for the day) and average maximum temperature in degrees F for July 6.


Fig.2 Plot of the difference between minimum temperature (the low for the day) and average minimum temperature in degrees F for July 6.


Fig.3 Plot of the active heat advisories across the northeastern US for July 6.

Heatwave impacts
The predominant impact from heat waves is increased mortality. CDC estimates that over 8,000 people died during heat waves from 1979 to 2003. That's more than all of the deaths due to lightning, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The elderly, sick, poor, and very young face the worst of the effects of the heat. Wikipedia has an interesting article describing the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, a modern heat wave with a large number of fatalities due to the heat.

Heatwave coping strategies
The Centers for Disease Control have some tips for dealing with the heat. In summary, drink plenty of water, spend time in air-conditioned buildings, and wear light-colored clothing.

Is this heat wave due to global warming?
Ah, the $64,000 question. In the absence of detailed analysis, it's hard to specify the exact cause for this heat wave, from a meteorological or climatological view point. However, events like this are consistent with research showing that heat waves are more likely with
global warming
. I like the metaphor of loaded dice, global warming is not specifically responsible for any heat wave, but it will make them happen more often.

Tropics
My thinking on Invest 96L is unchanged from this blog entry. In summary, I believe that 96L has a <50 % chance becoming a tropical cyclone before it makes landfall. If it does so, it will likely be near the coast when that happens. In any event though, the winds and waves it generates will likely disrupt oil spill recovery efforts. Also, I would expect a broad area of showers and 20+ mph winds will affect the Gulf coast somewhere from south Texas to Louisiana.

Next update
I'll have an update this afternoon to talk about the tropics.

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837. IKE
Quoting AllBoardedUp:
Is all this rain in SE Texas coming from remnants of 95L, or 96L? Or neither?


96L.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting StormW:


The Atlantic ocean
Zing!
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The 850mb vorticity with 96L has become much more circular in the 18z update
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Quoting reedzone:


Thats what I'm thinking, TD right before landfall, maybe a weak TS at best. I don't see anything stronger then that. It's moving at a good clip. Back later, great video update btw.


Ok and that is what most of us were thinking too, so what was the point of telling everyone they were hyping it?
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7233
833. IKE
Quoting reedzone:
I just don't see it lol..



(1)It looks better now vs. this morning.
(2)I see a spin.
(3)Looks headed for extreme southern Texas...maybe slightly further north than Alex as a landfall.
(4)There's a west wind at buoy 42055.
(5)It's running out of time, but not yet.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Levi32:


A loop of that image is more enlightening. It's still working on getting vertically stacked, but once it does and tightens up that closed surface low some more, we could possibly have a TD before landfall.


Thats what I'm thinking, TD right before landfall, maybe a weak TS at best. I don't see anything stronger then that. It's moving at a good clip. Back later, great video update btw.
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Quoting StormW:


I think the only pay they get may be hazardous duty pay...the guy's are military.
Even the NOAA crews? (pretty sure they are not)
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Quoting sailingallover:

Ditto
I can't see it needing a recon either..expensive..


You know what's also expensive? Flooding on the Rio Grande. And no matter what, this is likely to bring serious rain to an area that's already gotten too much. Look at Laredo, for example.

Anything that might help them get data to better manage the river (namely, at the Amistad and Falcon dams) or flood relief is worth it, IMHO.
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827. Daveg
Quoting reedzone:
I'm out, I will check on 96L and the NON-TROPICAL Low when I get back, take it easy guys, nothing too organized, no red on the next TWO, no TD tonight... Look at reality.


Personally, I think speaking in absolutes like that is a mistake, especially when talking about tropical systesm. Just my opinion.
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i think they have a back up plan i think noaa is going out too night
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114040
825. IKE
Quoting muddertracker:
All I can think about right now is those poor poor people in northern Mexico. They don't need a disorganized mess, much less "Bonnie." At least its moving at a good clip...it's not expected to slow down, is it?


I don't think so.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Levi32:


I didn't mean that. You made it sound like you were implying that the pattern was unfavorable for activity out there and that the absence of the Columbian Low was bad for tropical development, which isn't true. My bad if I misunderstood.

Also, my passion drives me to love storms, but I certainly do not wish a bad season on anyone this year.

Yeah I was saying the absence of the columbian low was keep the trades down..last year we had NE trades for about 30% of June..this year maybe a day or two and the south winds while light have been way more prevalent. Don't forget I put the money on a ITCZ/wave in the Atlantic as the first storm of the year..almost sad 92 didn't make it..especially since my boat is insured for named storms until July 1.
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Quoting reedzone:
I just don't see it lol..



A loop of that image is more enlightening. It's still working on getting vertically stacked, but once it does and tightens up that closed surface low some more, we could possibly have a TD before landfall.
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Quoting Drakoen:
NHC should bump up the chances to "High" in the next TWO.
I agree. It has far more potential to develop now over 95L when it suddenly was bumped up to 60%.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
820. IKE
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BROWNSVILLE TX
130 PM CDT WED JUL 7 2010

.SHORT TERM /TONIGHT THROUGH 7 AM FRIDAY/...A BROAD AREA OF LOW
PRESSURE NW OF THE YUCATAN PENINSULA CONTINUES TO MOVE WNW AT 10 TO
15 MPH. THE ENVIRONMENT REMAINS FAVORABLE FOR MORE DEVELOPMENT...
AND A TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD FORM BEFORE THE LOW PRESSURE AREA
REACHES LAND. IN THE MEAN TIME...SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE
ASSOCIATED WITH THE LOW PRESSURE AREA...AND SHOWERS AND TSTMS ARE
INCREASING IN COVERAGE ALONG THE LOWER TEXAS COAST AND OVER DEEP
SOUTH TEXAS. THE MAIN THREAT FOR THE NEXT 36 TO 48 HOURS WILL BE
FLOODING RAIN AS COPIOUS MOISTURE MOVES ASHORE IN AN UNSETTLED
ENVIRONMENT...AND A FLASH FLOOD WATCH HAS BEEN POSTED. TOTAL RAIN
AMOUNTS DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS ARE FORECAST TO BE FROM 2 TO
4 INCHES WITH ISOLATED AMOUNTS AS HIGH AS 6 INCHES.

&&

.LONG TERM /FRIDAY THROUGH TUESDAY/...
POP CHANCES WILL GRADUALLY DECREASE THROUGH THE WEEKEND AS
MOISTURE FROM THE TROPICAL WAVE GRADUALLY DECREASES AND DRIER AIR
MOVES IN FROM THE NORTH. RIDGING ALOFT WILL ALSO HELP TO SUPPRESS
CONVECTION...ESPECIALLY FOR THE FIRST HALF OF NEXT WEEK.
SUBSTANTIAL ATMOSPHERIC AND GROUND MOISTURE WILL KEEP
TEMPERATURES DOWN A COUPLE DEGREES FOR THE WEEKEND...BUT AT THE
EXPENSE OF MUCH MORE HUMID CONDITIONS AND STIFLING HEAT INDEX
VALUES.

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting reedzone:
I'm out, I will check on 96L and the NON-TROPICAL Low when I get back, take it easy guys, nothing too organized, no red on the next TWO, no TD tonight... Look at reality.


We are looking at reality, NHC gives it a 50% chance of development, which is pretty good
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7233
Quoting AllBoardedUp:
Galveston actually caught a break having taken a direct hit from Ike. If Ike had made landfall an hour, or so to the south then Galveston probably would have experienced another 3 to 6 feet of surge.


That would have put landfall at roughly the same area as the 1900 storm, and as it was the Sea Wall was topped by the combination of surge proper and waves on top. That would have also created a major disaster on the Ship Channel, and would have put downtown Houston and the west side of Houston in the eastern eyewall. Did you see houstonhidefromthewind.org? It was created by HCOEM to inform people of what types of wind to expect (from Ike). The website is still there with the data from advisory 49A. Where-ever landfall was expected at that time, my zip code was still going to receive sustained winds in excess of hurricane force. On an earlier advisory (around the time I made the decision to leave and not trust my tract home), we were a lot closer to the forecast track of the eye and we were going to have sustained winds of almost 100mph. The 1900 storm was our best analogue at that time.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Is all this rain in SE Texas coming from remnants of 95L, or 96L? Or neither?
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Quoting Jynni99:


sorry for the delayed response...it is small...like in an older house. I mean I think it is for both because there are things she had absolutely no interest in and I was like cool.


Thanks for the response. I may have to check it out.

I guess if we ever want to have a gathering of all the Houston area Wunderground folks, that could be a cool place to meet up.
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I'm out, I will check on 96L and the NON-TROPICAL Low when I get back, take it easy guys, nothing too organized, no red on the next TWO, no TD tonight... Look at reality.
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Quoting sailingallover:

Ditto
I can't see it needing a recon either..expensive..
It obviously has potential to become a TD as the circulation shown by ASCAT is a bit broad but won't take long to consolidate. I think recon should have gone out today, and since they didn't they should go out tomorrow.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting louisianaweatherguy:


yeah Rita hit the LA/TX border... Ike pretty hit Houston head on, right?


Ike went slightly East of Houston. Had it been further West, there would have been more damage.
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I just don't see it lol..

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All I can think about right now is those poor poor people in northern Mexico. They don't need a disorganized mess, much less "Bonnie." At least its moving at a good clip...it's not expected to slow down, is it?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2314
Recon can range from $5000 to $10,000 just for fuel, not even paying people and equipment per flight.
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Quoting txalwaysprepared:


Sort of... not exactly. Rita was a bit further east.


yeah Rita hit the LA/TX border... Ike pretty hit Houston head on, right?
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Well, yeah, different storms. Ike actually caused far more damage to my in-laws house near Beaumont than Rita.

But, if Rita had tracked to Galveston, I have no doubt that she would have wiped Bolivar just the same. Raise water elevations in Mobile? No. Flooded as much of LA and far SE TX as Ike? No. But the impact on Bolivar would have been the same...
Very true.
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NHC should bump up the chances to "High" in the next TWO.
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Quoting reedzone:


I agree StormW, this is just not as impressive to me as it is to others.

Ditto
I can't see it needing a recon either..expensive..
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Quoting BenInHouTX:


I had heard there was a Weather Museum here, but I haven't been there yet. Looking at the website, it looks to be a lot more children-oriented. Is this accurate? Or would it be enjoyable for someone in their mid-twenties?


sorry for the delayed response...it is small...like in an older house. I mean I think it is for both because there are things she had absolutely no interest in and I was like cool.
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Quoting kelley9:


Okie Dokie. Apologies accepted. Hope no offense was taken on your end either.
Nah, none taken. When I get offended, I just add the offender to my ignore list...LOL. Life's too short to type angry...
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Quoting angiest:


Ike was big enough to impact areas that Rita hit as well, so that actually isn't too big a stretch. :)
Well, yeah, different storms. Ike actually caused far more damage to my in-laws house near Beaumont than Rita.

But, if Rita had tracked to Galveston, I have no doubt that she would have wiped Bolivar just the same. Raise water elevations in Mobile? No. Flooded as much of LA and far SE TX as Ike? No. But the impact on Bolivar would have been the same...
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Quoting angiest:


Ike was big enough to impact areas that Rita hit as well, so that actually isn't too big a stretch. :)


That's what I was trying to say. The person from Houston did not know that Ike hit everything that Rita did. SW LA was erased twice.
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Quoting Levi32:


Well, I've gotten quite used to being puzzled by them more often in recent years.


The Mayfeild years were quite good.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3709
Quoting AllBoardedUp:
If I remember correctly, the eye of Rita came ashore at the mouth of the Sabine, Ike came right over Galveston, about 90 to 100 miles between the two locations.


Yep. Which stinks for those on the east side.. it doesn't much matter it's exact landfall. But for those of us on the west side (Houston/Galveston) area it made a big difference
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Quoting angiest:


Ike was big enough to impact areas that Rita hit as well, so that actually isn't too big a stretch. :)
Galveston actually caught a break having taken a direct hit from Ike. If Ike had made landfall an hour, or so to the south then Galveston probably would have experienced another 3 to 6 feet of surge.
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Quoting StormW:


I don't know...let me ask it! (Just kidding). Well, it has a nice LLC, but still having a problem wrapping convection enough to maintain long enough to become a depression. Could still come together to meet depression status prior to landfall.


I agree StormW, this is just not as impressive to me as it is to others.
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Quoting IKE:


Sorry if it sounds like I'm bashing the NHC all the time. They did an excellent job on Alex...but I'm puzzled by their actions on 95L and 96L.


Well, I've gotten quite used to being puzzled by them more often in recent years.
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790. IKE
Looking at a 6 hour loop of 96L's movement in the GOM visible, it looks like it's got 12-18 hours until landfall, unless it slows down....Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Good afternoon,,,,,,

Looks like Texas is going to get a little wind and a lot water......Thats about it!

This area could become a storm but it doesnt have to much time. West winds are definitely there and picking up in speed. I must say though that Im bored...... Its early July.......I know......
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Quoting atmoaggie:
You caught that, too...if Rita really had made landfall at Galveston/Bolivar, there would have been much less for Ike to erase...


Ike was big enough to impact areas that Rita hit as well, so that actually isn't too big a stretch. :)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.