I was in the United States last week during the heat wave that snaked its way up from Texas and the South across the Eastern Seaboard and into central Canada. For sure, it was stinkin’ hot. One night, my family and I went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game when the humidex temperature was 41C. There wasn’t enough frozen lemonade in the stadium to make that comfortable.
From all the headlines and waitress small talk about the heat, you would have imagined the hot, muggy weather was unusual. Yet, throughout the entire week of sweltering temperatures and sizzling news stories, just 0.6% of nearly 6,000 U.S. weather stations witnessed a record daily high.
According to the climate blog Hockey Schtick
, “there were no records broken on July 17, July 18, July 19, or July 20th. A total of four stations broke records on July 21, 20 on July 22, and 10 on July 23, 2011.” And we’re not talking about all-time record highs – the highest temperature ever recorded at a specific location – but merely daily records. No U.S. weather station recorded its highest temperature ever during the heat wave of 2011, and just 34 hit historic highs for a single date.
If we were suffering the effects of global warming, wouldn’t you think there would be higher highs, that each year’s heat wave would be worse than the last? If the planet was slowly getting hotter, wouldn’t you imagine a quarter of weather stations would break daily heat records during each summer’s peak temperatures and some smaller percentage – 10% or even 5% — would see all-time highs?