It’s the hottest time of the year in the northern hemisphere and there are heat waves on three continents; the heat waves can lead to air quality alerts and fires. There is also weather news from a (very) far off place, and the northern hemisphere tropics heat up with a typhoon and a hurricane. Let’s go Around The World.
Dust Storm Engulfs Entire Planet
Luckily not our planet. Mars, with almost no atmosphere, nevertheless has dust storms. One recently overspread the entire planet and probably knocked out one of the rovers.
The progress of dust storms on Mars is notoriously hard to predict. Inasmuch as meteorologists have trouble forecasting rain a day in advance on Earth, it’s not a surprise that they cannot forecast whether a Martian dust storm will die out or overspread the entire planet — the June storm did the latter.
The rover Opportunity appears to have been disabled by the dust, while Curiosity is unaffected.
Other planets including Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn have atmospheres, some very thick, and weather that is unlike anything on Earth. Jupiter has had a storm raging for hundreds of years, while Venus has a runaway carbon dioxide atmosphere that has raised the temperature to over 800° F.
Heat Waves In US, UK, And China
‘Tis the season to set temperature records. Heat waves in North America, Europe, and Asia have produced daily temperature records and at least one all-time high temperature mark: On June 28, Motherwell, Scotland reported a temperature of 33.2° C (91.8° F), the highest temperature ever recorded in Scotland.
According to the National Weather Service forecast for July, August, and September, it will be a long summer over much of the US. The entire country will be at or above normal, with the highest temperatures occurring in New England, and the west coast south to southern California and east to the Rocky Mountains.
What Makes A Heat Wave?
In the atmosphere, the air in a particular place can rise for one or a combination of the following reasons:
- The sun can heat the air directly or heat the ground which heats the air above it.
- Warmer air can move in from somewhere else (This is called warm air advection).
- The air can sink, warming because of the increasing pressure with decreasing height. This is called adiabatic warming (No heat is added; the increase in temperature is caused solely by the contraction of the air as the pressure increases, a relationship known as the ideal gas law). The effect of adiabatic warming is about 3 C (5 F) per thousand feet of vertical descent.
Most heat waves are the result of first warm air advection, then a combination of solar heating and adiabatic heating in the stagnant air mass.
As weather systems have tended to stall more frequently, possibly due to global warming, killer heat waves have become more common.
One additional unwanted effect of heat waves is unhealthy air. The stagnant, sinking air traps pollutants near the ground.
And, finally, the hot air tends to be accompanied by dryness, which leads to fires. There are currently 29 fires out of control in the contiguous US, mainly in California, New Mexico, and Colorado. In northern California, there have already been three times as many large fires as at the same time last year, a record-breaking fire year itself; Californians are bracing for the fall season, when fire danger peaks.
Time To Watch The Tropical Northern Hemisphere Oceans
The Atlantic is quiet, but in the Pacific Ocean, there is a Typhoon near Japan and a hurricane heading towards Hawaii.
Typhoon Prapiroon lost typhoon strength as it approached southwest Japan today, while a second west Pacific storm will attain typhoon strength over the open ocean and affect only a few small islands.
In the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Fabio will likely briefly attain major hurricane strength before petering out over colder water as it heads in the general direction of Hawaii.
The water on this course is only marginally warm enough to support a tropical system, but any warming, even of a degree or two, could spell trouble for the volcanic islands. Water temperatures in the breeding ground for storms south of Mexico are elevated, and Fabio is the earliest ‘F’ named storm ever.
Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, the water in the major-hurricane breeding ground near the Cape Verde islands remains below normal. However, most major Atlantic hurricanes occur in August or September, so there is plenty of time for conditions to become favorable for a major hurricane.
The Indian Ocean, where historic cyclone Mekunu struck Oman in May with category three winds and three years’ worth of rain, is quiet now, but water temperatures remain favorable for more activity.
The next Weather Around The World will be published on August 7, 2018.
Climate Change Checkup will be published in mid-July, 2018.