Tuesday, July 24, 2012

All Global Cooling in a Day -OR- Summer Heat, Now and Then

Birdbath in the small, shrub-filled yard of 1734 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 7:02PM, July 21, 2012.


Entry #699

In this entry, I would like to discuss the weather, in particular, the delightfully cool and showery conditions we had across the Washington / Baltimore area this past Saturday, July 21st, 2012. The pictures include those that I took while wandering about my Dupont neighborhood.

Damp and delightfully cool day, 1900 block New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 6:55PM, July 21, 2012.


It was the coolest July day in at least a decade and comes immediately after the relentless record heat of this summer (not to mention the past two summers). I also want to post some observations about the summer of 1930 -- the supreme record-holder for 100F+ days and all-time record high of 106F in Washington, D.C., but I've already discussed the latter topic (it was really 105.6F, which we effectively tied on July 7th this year).

I had intended to avoid a political discussion -- other than to note Paul Krugman's excellent climate related op-ed on Monday in The New York Times, but upon reflection, that is neither possible nor even desirable. If this bothers my few readers, then just skip the content and look at the pictures.

This past Saturday (7/21/2012), under cloudy, misty, occasionally beneficially showery skies region-wide, it only reached 71F at Reagan Washington National Airport station (KDCA). BWI Marshall Airport station (KBWI) and Washington Dulles International Airport station both reached 69F. All three were record low highs for the day, that is, "min maxes." How rare are those types of records today??

The view of from the inside of Cosi on Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C., 7:23PM, July 21, 2012. It was very peaceful there as I had a TBM sandwich and listened to a kind of fusion jazz music.


This was not only the coolest high temp. on July 21st ever at these spots, but it was the coolest July high at KDCA since July 26, 2002 (also 71F) and the coolest at both KBWI and KIAD since July 29, 2001 (69F and 67F, respectively).

Cue the Fox News / GOP Death Star / VRWC shrieks of "GLOBAL COOLING!" while Teabaggers start yowling about Al Gore claiming to have invented the internet and the latest feverish bullshit about Obama's birth certificate.

Then cut to George F. Will writing some pseudo-erudite bullshit WaHoPo piece that starts as follows: "Cicero states in De re publica, 'True law is right reason in agreement with nature.' Liberals, by seeking to bend nature to their desired outcomes at the expense of true liberty, show themselves to abhor both right reason and nature ..."

And Fred Hiatt and  Ruth "Mother" Marcus get all tingly all over.

Say Mr. Will, has your current wife tossed your possessions out the window again lately for your latest infidelity?? Make sure you discuss THAT when talking about the "vulgarian" Bill Clinton. Note to readers: I personally LOVE the topic of rightwing sexual hypocrisy, esp. among public figures. It's the gift that never stops giving.  

About that Arctic sea ice cover, here is an update:"Death Spiral Watch: Arctic Sea Ice Takes a Nosedive". And here is a UK Guardian article whence I got the above images.

And the Whore $treet Journal editorial board will vomit up some rhetorical Exorcist-like pea green soup that Howie "Mistah" Kurtz will feature in his "balanced" segment between some rightwing corporate pundit a-hole and the USA Today science reporter, who won't dare take a side.

Mr. Sirius / a.k.a., Matthew H., on vacation on the Barents Sea, Novaya Zemlya.

But before I get too far down a political road -- especially since (1) the month is still averaging area-wide through Sunday +4.2F to +5.0F above normal, and (2) considering how absurd it is on the face of it to assume anything about the global climate from a couple of spots -- but let's review the summer of 2012 through today ...

So far in 2012 at KDCA

No. of days with 100F+ highs: 7 days;
No. of days with 95F+ highs: 18 days;
Record number of 100F+ days: 11 days - 1930;
Record number of 95F+ days: 28 days - 1980;

So far in 2012 at KBWI

No. of days with 100F+ highs: 6 days;
No. of days with 95F+ highs: 18 days;
Record number of 100F+ days: 6 days - 1988, 2010, and 2012 (so far);
Record number of 95F+ days: 23 days - 1991;

The 11 days in 1930 has also certainly been cited by inside-the-Beltway corporate whore climate change deniers-on-the-Koch Brothers / Bain Capital payroll.

A gas lamp outside 1904 R Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:44PM, July 21, 2012.


Baltimore and Washington Summer 1930 Heat Records*

*I just don't have a lot of good images for this section.

Postcard of Baltimore Inner Harbor Harbor and downtown, circa 1929. The city probably was not this clean -- certainly not the harbor water.


But that's not the angle I want to take. Rather, I want to discuss the D.C. versus Baltimore records of 1930. First off, D.C. had 11 days of 100F+ or higher while Baltimore had no more than 5 days (since 1930 is not included, so it cannot be any higher than 5).

Another Baltimore Inner Harbor view from the 1940s. I think this is a postcard image. It's hard to tell in these "colorized" old images.


This is at least a 6 day difference which seems very hard to believe because the two cities have the same climate and are close enough that the weather in events such as heat waves is for all intents and purposes the same. Anyone who lives in this area and follows the weather will understand what I am saying.

Baltimore skyline, circa 1963

Assuming the 6+ day difference is real, then it has to be due to some microclimate effect. For starters, in 1930, neither National Airport nor BWI Airport existed and the recording station in D.C. was located in downtown D.C. (either on G or M Street NW) and in Balitmore was located at the U.S. Custom House. Source of information here.

Aerial view of Federal Triangle and the National Mall, Washington, D.C., 1935.


While the downtown D.C. location may have been warmer than the current KDCA spot, which is located along the tidal Potomac a few miiles south of the city, the U.S. Custom House spot was a notoriously warm one right up until it was decommissioned at some point in the 1990s (and replaced by the KDMH one at the Science Center).

The only conceivable microclimate location I can think of is air pollution. Yes, air pollution. Consider that at the time, Baltimore was a city filled with heavy, belching smokestack industry including legendary Bethlehem Steel. By contrast, D.C. was not.

Sparrows Point Bethlehem Steel plant belching back on a winter's day, January 1973.


So it may have been the case that the air was just a lot more smoggy / "overcast" in Baltimore than in D.C., and this actually reduced the temperature. But this is only a guess on my part, and I will never know.

One last item on the summer of the 1930s -- the Dust Bowl. The anomalously hot and dry conditions over North America's Bread Basket was undoubtedly worsened by the bad land management methods of the time, resulting in the giant "dusters" that blackened the skies. In that sense, the Dust Bowl had a "human" finger print.

Scary-looking dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas, April 18, 1935


OK, that's all for now. Oh, yes, one last tidbit about Saturday's weather: the KDCA low was 67F, giving a diurnal range of just 4F. Apparently, this is only the 10th time in Washington, D.C., on record that a July day had a diurnal range of 4F or less.

In terms of precip, the most tally between the 18th and 21st was 0.80" at KDCA, KBWI had 2.32" and KIAD had 1.78". We're still well below for the year, though.


1518 R Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:54PM, July 21, 2012.


I went to the gym tonight and had a decent work out. But I'm still, meh ...

My next planned entry is actually tomorrow night as I would like to post a series of wonderful photographs that my good friend Wendy took on a few of her global travels. And thereafter I will post a farewell entry ahead of my scheduled 5 day visit to see my dad down in Flagler Beach, Florida ... sigh ...


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