August 6, 2022

Drought Covers Half Of The U.S. As Long, Hot Summer Continues

It's been a long and hot stretch for much of the United States so far this summer, and things aren't looking too good if you're peeking at the forecast for some relief.

Stubborn ridges of high pressure have kept things very warm over much of the country this season, with  folks from the Pacific Northwest to the southeast notching one heat wave after another.

Denver is battling through one of its hottest summers on record up to this point. 9News meteorologist Chris Bianchi tweeted on Friday that Denver's average daily temperature so far this summer is 74.6°F, making this the second-warmest summer through the beginning of August.

Seattle ended July by shattering its longest streak of days with high temperatures of 90°F or hotter. The stretch between July 26th and July 31st recorded highs of 94°F, 91°F, 94°F, 95°F, 95°F, 95°F, respectively, which is way above the city's normal high of about 79°F at the end of the month.

Dallas hasn't seen a below-average high temperature since the end of June, with almost every day this summer notching a high temperature 5-12°F above normal at DFW Airport.

Long, Hot Summer Reinforces Drought

The heat's taken its toll. More than half of the contiguous United States fell into a drought this summer, and things haven't really gotten much better for the hardest-hit areas.

Vast swaths of Texas have seen less than 15 percent of their typical precipitation so far this summer, and deficits are widespread across the rest of the country.

As a result, 51.39 percent of the contiguous U.S. is in a drought as of the August 2nd update of the United States Drought Monitor (USDM). Nearly one-fifth of the country is in a severe or extreme drought, the two highest categories on the USDM's scale measuring the extent and longevity of drought conditions.

The long-term drought across the west stands out like a sore thumb. A beneficial monsoon in recent weeks has put a dent in the southwest's drought, but exceptional drought remains over parts of California's Central Valley, southern Nevada, and portions of central Utah.

Moderate and severe drought conditions have also built across parts of the northern Plains, Mid-South, and across New England. 

Heat Persists For Some, Relieving Rains For Others

The forecast for the rest of the month isn't looking too good for the central U.S., with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) calling for decent odds of above-average temperatures and below-normal rainfall through the rest of the month.

This kind of pattern will bring better news for the western and eastern portions of the country, with troughs building around the ridge to bring a bit of relief from excessive heat, as well as the chance for rain in areas that could really use it.

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July 16, 2022

Dangerous Heat, 110°F+ High Temperatures On The Way For Southern Plains

There's a hot summer day and a dang hot summer day. A spell of extreme heat on the southern Plains is set to get worse over the next couple of days as high temperature crank well above the 100-degree mark for much of the region. Highs will easily climb above 110°F for some areas, especially in Oklahoma.

A strong ridge of high pressure building over the western two-thirds of the United States will focus its ire on the southern Plains as we begin the workweek. It's already been pretty darn hot month across the region so far. 12 of the past 16 days at Dallas-Fort Worth Int'l Airport have clocked in at 100°F or hotter so far this month, and that pattern looks to continue as we head into the new week.

The worst of the heat will build on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The National Weather Service's latest forecast calls for high temperatures to exceed 105°F 

Here are the NWS's predicted highs for Monday, July 18th...

...Tuesday, July 19th...

...and Wednesday, July 20th.

That's brutal heat for anyone. It's going to be exceptionally rough on vulnerable populations such as the elderly, low-income families who don't have adequate (or any) access to air conditioning or fans, folks battling illnesses, and those who have to work outside for long periods of time.

What's going to make the heat even harder is that it's not going to cool off much at night. Tuesday is going to be the hottest day across the region, and nighttime temperatures are going to struggle to fall below 80°F in spots, especially in Oklahoma.

Here's the National Weather Service's predicted low temperatures for Wednesday morning:

That's a morning low of 86°F in Tulsa. Ouch.

Extreme heat is a compounding risk. Each day of excessively hot temperatures bleeds into the next, without much relief at night, adding stress to vulnerable populations until it becomes too much to bear.

Heat exhaustion is no joke. It can sneak up on you in a hurry if you're not careful. Drink more water than you think you need to drink. Don't push it in the hot sunshine. Find ways to stay cool if you don't have adequate cooling. Check on your neighbors if you know they might have a hard time with the heat.


The ridge will start to break down a bit as we head later into the week, but broad ridging over the central United States will keep temperatures at or above the century mark for the southern Plains at least through next weekend. This is going to be a rough stretch of hot weather the likes of which this region hasn't seen in a long while. 

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July 2, 2022

It's Time For The Atlantic's Annual "Where'd That Tropical Storm Come From?"


Tropical Storm Colin formed over coastal South Carolina early Saturday morning, becoming the third named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm that satellite image above. It takes a trained eye and some imagination to find it, but it's there, according to the experts at the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Where'd it come from? Who knows! The Carolinas are world-renowned for their barbecue, bad drivers, and spinning up tropical storms from seemingly nowhere.

A small low-pressure system developed off the Georgia coast early Friday afternoon. The NHC noted the system in its 2:00 p.m. tropical weather outlook and gave it a low chance of developing over the next couple of days.

Funny things happen close to the coast during the early summer, though, and the low-pressure system gradually became better organized. The NHC declared it Tropical Storm Colin at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, saying in its first discussion:

A small area of low pressure formed along a surface trough just  offshore of Savannah, Georgia, yesterday morning and moved inland across the Lowcountry of South Carolina by the evening.  Deep convection formed near the low center as it was moving inland and has persisted and become better organized over the past 6 to 12 hours.  In addition, surface observations and ASCAT data from 02-03 UTC indicated that an area of sustained 35-kt winds had developed offshore and near the coast of South Carolina.  As a result, and rather unexpectedly, Tropical Storm Colin has formed near the South Carolina coast, centered just inland a bit to the northeast of Charleston.

Ain't that somethin'?

Thankfully, Colin is relatively weak and folks getting rained on this long holiday weekend won't notice much of a difference between this tropical storm and a typical dreary day.

The latest forecast from the NHC shows Colin hanging around for another day, moseying over North Carolina's Outer Banks before it loses tropical characteristics. Aside from rip currents at the coast, there's not really much to worry about here—only an inch or two of rain with a low chance for flash flooding along the immediate coast.

There have been a decent number of short-lived tropical storms in recent years that spun-up just before they made landfall in the southeastern United States. 

Last year's Tropical Storm Mindy formed at 4:00 p.m. and made landfall on the Florida Panhandle four hours later. The year before that, Tropical Storm Bertha formed and hit Charleston, S.C., just an hour-and-a-half later. 

Tropical Storm Colin also appears to be the third Atlantic storm in recent memory that strengthened into a tropical storm while the system's center of circulation was over land.

Last year, forecasters upgraded Claudette into a tropical storm twice (!!) while it was over land. The system that became Tropical Storm Julia in September 2016 formed into both a tropical depression and a tropical storm while its center was inland over Florida's East Coast.

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July 1, 2022

Tropical Storm Bonnie Could Achieve A Rare Feat: Changing Oceans

Tropical Storm Bonnie (finally) formed in the far southern Caribbean Sea on Friday afternoon, becoming the second storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. We've been watching this system for a while now, performing its will-it-or-won't-it routine as it skimmed the northern shores of South America.

This tropical storm will be a big deal for folks in Central America. Very heavy rainfall over mountainous terrain will lead to widespread and life-threatening flash flooding across much of Nicaragua and Costa Rica through the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center's 11:00 a.m. EDT update on Friday showed Tropical Storm Bonnie as a minimal tropical storm, moving west a decent clip toward the Nicaraguan coast. Forecasters expect the storm to make landfall on Friday night, lingering through the day on Saturday for many areas.

Even weak tropical systems are bad news when they hit Central America. The region's rugged terrain exacerbates flash flooding from tropical systems that cross the area. The NHC's advisory calls for 4-8 inches of rain, with localized amounts of a foot or more possible.

Bonnie is a strange tropical storm that has the potential to land a spot in the recordbooks. Not only is this one of the farthest-south storms ever recorded—thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic shunting it far to the south—but forecasters expect it to survive its encounter with Central America and emerge over the eastern Pacific unscathed.

It's very, very rare for tropical systems to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific intact. Land interaction typically shreds these storms apart, leaving only their cloudy remnants to wander into the adjacent ocean and look for more opportunities to organize into a new storm.

But the latest NHC forecast calls for Tropical Storm Bonnie to cross Nicaragua intact this weekend,  thanks in large part to its swift forward speed and the narrowness of this part of Central America. Forecasters expect Bonnie to emerge in the eastern Pacific on Saturday as a tropical system with the same center of circulation it developed over on the Atlantic side. 

If the storm accomplishes this rare feat, it'll retain its Atlantic name. Forecasters expect Bonnie to continue its Pacific adventure even stronger than it started life, potentially strengthening into a hurricane as it parallels Mexico's western coast heading into early next week.

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June 28, 2022

Developing Atlantic Tropical Storm Set To Take An Unusual Track

A tropical wave that's made its way across the eastern Atlantic Ocean for the past couple of days is on the verge of organizing into Tropical Storm Bonnie on Tuesday. The system will bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the southern Caribbean—which itself is unusual for the end of June, but it's an odd storm track altogether.

Southern Caribbean On Alert

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) calls the system "Potential Tropical Cyclone Two," a bureaucratic term that gives forecasters the ability to issue tropical storm watches and warnings before the system formally develops into a tropical depression or tropical storm.

Forecasters expect PTC Two to organize during the day on Tuesday, becoming Tropical Storm Bonnie as it approaches Trinidad and Tobago.

The storm will skim the southern periphery of the Caribbean Sea through the week, bringing foul weather to places like Aruba and the northern coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.

From there, the NHC's forecast calls for future-Bonnie to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Nicaragua by the end of the week.

Any tropical cyclone is bad news for Central America—the region's rough terrain makes flash flooding and mudslides a life-threatening ordeal no matter how strong a storm is when it pushes ashore.

Strange Storm, Strange Track

The system's existence is a bit of an oddity for this early in the season. Early-season storms usually form closer to the United States, the result of decaying fronts or thunderstorm complexes that move into the western Atlantic basin.

We usually don't start seeing tropical waves push off Africa and move across the tropical Atlantic until the middle and latter half of the summer. This storm's origin isn't unheard of for the end of June, but it's on the extreme side of "huh, that's weird" for a storm this early in the season.

Not only are we dealing with a premature tropical wave, but it's going to follow an equally unusual track. A very strong ridge of high pressure over the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean will push this system into Trinidad and Tobago, then allow it to skirt the northern shores of South America through the week.

Systems usually don't track this far south. 

Future-Bonnie's track is on the far southern edge of all recorded storms over the past 170 years of diligent recordkeeping—all as a result of that strong ridge.

Forecasters expect a busy hurricane season in the weeks and months ahead. This could be our eighth above-average season in a row, with more than a dozen named storms likely through this fall. It's more important than ever to make sure you're prepared for flooding, power outages, or worse, even if you live hundreds of miles inland.

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June 25, 2022

Two Tropical Disturbances To Watch In The Atlantic As June Rolls To A Close

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two disturbances in the Atlantic basin for potential tropical development as we head into the last week of June. One disturbance in the Gulf will bring heavy rain to coastal communities regardless of development, while the other is far out in the tropical Atlantic, with plenty of time to watch before it threatens land.

Gulf Disturbance

A cluster of thunderstorms hanging out over the northern Gulf Coast has a 20 percent (low) chance of developing into a tropical depression over the next couple of days.

This disturbance is one of those situations where it's bringing noteworthy impacts whether or not it actually forms into anything more. Heavy rain is falling over portions of southern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana.

The latest rainfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center calls for an additional 3-5+ inches of rain over the next few days. Heavy, tropical rainfall will lead to the threat for localized flooding in some areas.

It's worth watching regardless, because this is exactly where you'd expect to see a tropical system form in June.

Speaking of where it's normal to see storms...

Tropical Atlantic Disturbance

It's a bit unusual to talk about tropical development deep in the tropical Atlantic around the beginning of the season. Early-season storms tend to form close to land, often stemming off of decayed fronts or thunderstorm complexes. We don't start seeing true tropical waves rolling off the coast of Africa until we get closer to August.

Never say never, though. The NHC says there's a 60 percent (medium) chance of a tropical disturbance developing over the next couple of days as it steadily makes its way toward the Lesser Antilles. 

It's far enough from land that we don't have to worry about it just yet. There's plenty of time to watch its potential development and where it'll track.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

There's a strong ridge of high pressure over the central and eastern Atlantic Ocean that'll steer this system. The strength of the ridge will determine how far north it goes.

A stronger ridge will push it farther south—think Aruba and Nicaragua—while a weaker ridge would allow the system to pull farther north.

Slow Start To The Season...For Once

This year's seen a much slower start to hurricane season than we've seen in the past couple of years. 2022 is the first season since 2014 that didn't see its first named storm form before June 1st.

We did cut it close, though, when Tropical Storm Alex formed south of Bermuda after drenching Florida as a will-it-or-won't-it-develop type of deal.

Forecasters across the board expect this hurricane season to see above-average activity, though, as a result of La Niña and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic.

It's a cliché, but remember that it really only takes one storm to make any hurricane season a bad hurricane season for you. Some of the worst damage has resulted from tremendous flooding produced by tropical storms, tropical depressions, and unnamed tropical disturbances.

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June 15, 2022

Strong Tornadoes, Damaging Winds Possible In The Upper Midwest Wednesday

Dangerous severe thunderstorms are possible Wednesday afternoon across portions of the Upper Midwest, with the bulk of the severe risk focused on Wisconsin. Storms in and around the risk areas could produce strong, long-lived tornadoes, damaging wind gusts in excess of 75 mph, and hail the size of golf balls or larger.

Wednesday's severe weather risk is a typical side effect of a heat wave like the one parked over the eastern half of the country right now. Severe storms thrive around the edges of the ridge, which often puts the Upper Midwest right in line for multiple rounds of rough storms for the duration of the heat wave.

A low-pressure system will develop over the northern Great Lakes during the day, setting the stage for severe thunderstorms to develop across the Upper Midwest.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk, a 4 out of 5 on the agency's scale measuring the threat for severe weather, focused on much of Wisconsin, with an enhanced risk (3 out of 5) radiating outward to include northeastern Iowa and portions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

All modes of severe weather are possible on Wednesday afternoon. Strong, long-lived tornadoes are possible across most of Wisconsin. Storms could also produce damaging wind gusts of 75 mph or stronger, as well as hail the size of golf balls or larger.

This is one of those days where it pays to be proactive about watches and warnings. Check your phone and make sure emergency alerts are activated for tornado warnings. Scout out your home, office, or anywhere you plan to be today for safe places to take cover if you go under a tornado warning.

The threat for severe weather will shift toward the Northeast on Thursday, with a threat for tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail focused on Pennsylvania and western New York.

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June 14, 2022

Heat Index Is Real, People Didn't Survive Before A/C, And Other Heat Wave FAQs, Answered

Q: How long is it going to stay hot?

A: As you can tell by the dramatic top image of a thermometer in the sunshine, a mainstay of lazy hot weather coverage, this heat wave isn't going anywhere.

Some of us might get a brief break this weekend, but the heat is going to build back even hotter next week. 100s are possible into the Mid-Atlantic.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

An upper-level low will swing across Ontario and Quebec later this week, sending a surge of (relatively) cooler air sinking down over the eastern United States. It'll be comfortable in the Northeast, but temperatures will only fall down into the upper 80s and low 90s in the southeastern states.

Meanwhile, a newer, stronger ridge will build in behind that upper-level low, allowing high temperatures in the 100s to spill into the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. That ridge will spread east through the weekend, reaching the eastern states by Sunday and Monday with round two of this prolonged heat event.

The heat index is going to make those brutal temperatures feel even hotter. The prolonged nature of this heat event is really dangerous for vulnerable communities. 

Q: The heat index is a ratings ploy to make it sound hotter than it really is!

A: The heat index is real. Your body cools off through evaporative cooling. Sweat evaporating from your skin helps to regular your body temperature when it's hot outside. Humidity interferes with this process.

When it's both hot and humid outside, your body has to struggle to maintain a healthy body temperature. If the dew point is 72°F—which is Florida-esque tropical mugginess—and the air temperature is 95°F, the heat index is 104°F, meaning that your body is feeling the same strain on that muggy 95°F day as it would if it were actually 104°F.

The higher the heat index, the more stress your body endures in the heat. It's a real thing despite what some hipster hot-take havers want to argue otherwise. Test it at your own peril.

Q: Just open the windows and you'll be fine.

A: Opening the windows and switching on fans can help with air circulation, but it all comes back to your body's struggle to cool off when it's both hot and humid.

Keeping the windows open and fans going doesn't actually lower the temperature. It feels cooler because it speeds up the evaporation of your sweat—a process that's disrupted by muggy temperatures.

The true danger is that a heat wave's effects compound with each day of excessive temperatures and humidity. Homes don't have a chance to cool down as one sweltering day bleeds into a stifling night. The stress grows on vulnerable populations with each day of a heat wave, regardless of whether you've got the windows open and a fan cranking.

Q: This is no big deal. People survived before air conditioning! Why are we so weak today?

A: It's called survivorship bias. Lots and lots of people died before air conditioning as a direct result of not having air conditioning.

It's sort of like the folks who scream "why do we need to coddle kids with all these safety features, I grew up just fine!" Sure, you may have turned out okay! But cemeteries are too full of too many little kids who, it turns out, couldn't get by without car seats or vaccines or wall-fastened dressers or unleaded paint on the windowsill. 

Even with air conditioning all over the place today, heat is still the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States. One bad heat wave can kill hundreds of people, a higher toll than years and years of tragic tornadoes combined. Last year's awful heat wave in the Pacific Northwest was Washington's deadliest weather disaster on record, and it killed nearly 600 people up in British Columbia.

Lots of people died before air conditioning. Lots of people still die without air conditioning. Consider yourself fortunate if you don't have to worry about that.

Q: Dry heat is better than a humid heat.

A: If the humidity makes your body work harder, wouldn't that mean a dry heat is better for you than a humid heat? Not necessarily.

An actual air temperature of 110°F with very little humidity in the air still makes your body work very hard to cool itself off. In fact, you can sweat too efficiently in a dry heat, potentially leading to faster dehydration and heat-related illnesses. 

Q: Why is every piece of hot weather advice so condescending?

A: Television meteorologists and online weather blatherers like me are very aware of how condescending it sounds to say "drink water and stay in the shade" to an audience that's almost entirely grown adults.

It's really, really easy to accidentally overdo it. I walk 5 miles every morning. I get cranky if I have to use the treadmill. But, even doing what I do, I have to consciously remember that the hot weather will knock me flat if I push it too hard. "I'm fine," right up until I'm half a mile from home with an empty water bottle and growing leg cramps.

Hearing safety advice over and over is annoying, but it works. It's worth if it one construction site calls it a day to keep its workers from getting sick, or if the sweet old lady down the street decides to do her power walk on the treadmill instead of pushing it in the hot sun.

Q: I'm not thirsty, so I don't need water.

A: Dehydration sneaks up on you. It's one of those things that's better to stave off than try to correct once it's taking a toll you.

Q: I'm healthy. I'm built for the heat. What's the big deal?

A: While the elderly, folks who suffer from medical issues, outdoor workers, and children are the most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, it can happen to anyone.

Heat is the deadliest form of extreme weather and it's a silent killer to boot. To put it bluntly: someone dying alone in their sweltering apartment doesn't make as good of a headline as someone dying in a tornado, so it doesn't get much attention. 

Q: When will it cool off?

A: Probably in the fall.

Q: This article format is annoying. What gives?

A: It's a riff on this post from 2016. Meh. It's hard to be funny about a heat wave. It's strange—people lose their minds over a snowstorm like the world is ending, but they'll downplay the extreme dangers of heat even though it claims a toll many magnitudes higher than even the worst blizzard. Go figure.

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