Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Escape from Hothouse Earth

After living through the hell of Seattle, I finally found pleasant weather yesterday in Ketchikan, Alaska, where we are visiting family.

The weather today was perfect.  High of 70ish with sunshine and a good breeze.  It's rare, but when the weather here is nice, its a great place to be.  

I have been reflecting on the heat of the past few weeks.  June in Salt Lake City was ridiculous.  7 days of triple digits and a mean temperature that will easily set a new record.  Through yesterday, the average temperature for the month was 80.1˚F.  The next highest is 77.5.  

Source: NOAA Regional Climate Centers

Then, how does one wrap their head around the Northwest US/Southwest Canada heat wave?  I can't.  I still can't fathom a high in Lytton, British Columbia of 121˚F.  Even in celsius it sounds awful.  49.6˚C.  Unfathomable.  Reports are this is the highest temperature ever recorded north of 45˚ north (and I suspect south of 45˚ south for that matter).  The town is now being evacuated due to wildfire.

The death toll from this heat probably won't be known for a few days if not weeks to properly account for changes in death rates.  BC's chief coroner said today at least 165 deaths can be attributed to the heat.  

If this was a glimpse of the future, it wasn't pretty.  I am reminded that we are on a path for the summer temperatures in Salt Lake City later this century to be similar to those of St. George in the 20th century.  Yeah, it's going to suck.  Anyone want to set the over under on the first year Salt Lake City observes 110?  How about 115?  Seem ridiculous?  

Not anymore.  


  1. I would have said it was impossible for Salt Lake to hit 110. We've hit 107 three times in almost 150 years of data, and I would have guessed that was about what you could squeeze out of a very hot pattern at SLC given latitude, elevation, and nearby topography like the GSL. But seeing how this last PacNW heatwave absolutely shattered all-time records... never say never, I suppose.

    It does look like Wendover, at similar latitude and elevation as SLC, has observed 110+ twice - once in 1917 (July 11, 110F) and once in 1939 (July 13, 112F). Highs at SLC on those days were 92 (!) and 102.

  2. SLC hits 110 7/15/2028. I am no scientist but the highs are getting too damn high!

  3. Last night's extended GFS MOS had a high of 111F for next Wed in Salt Lake, followed by an overnight low of 83. If I were in Alaska right now, I'd be shredding my return ticket.

  4. "I am reminded that we are on a path for the summer temperatures in Salt Lake City later this century to be similar to those of St. George in the 20th century. Yeah, it's going to suck. Anyone want to set the over under on the first year Salt Lake City observes 110? How about 115?"

    SLC becoming the old St. George is based on what extent of warming? I'm just wondering if it will be worse like SLC becomes Las Vegas. My understanding is that the 1.5 C by 2100 scenario would require net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and then a period of negative carbon emissions since we'll probably overshoot 1.5 C by 2050 anyway. As someone who works in the relevant technology space, this will be difficult to achieve from a technical perspective, but maybe I'm off on the atmospheric science side.

    If we get to net zero by 2050, then maybe we end up close to the 2 C by 2100 scenario? However, from the IEA net zero by 2050 roadmap, I do not see that pathway being politically viable or people in our society willing to curtail leisure flying, foregoing cars, and all of the other sacrifices in lifestyle, especially after COVID where everyone's itching to go places, to the extent required to achieve net zero as outlined in the IEA roadmap.

    Never mind our ability to cooperate across borders as China commissioned 38.4 Gigawatts of coal power in 2020 with another 247 GW in planning stages to boost their economic recovery after COVID. Which, incidentally, exceeds the remaining 223 GWs of coal capacity remaining in the US.

    So, I'll bet SLC sees 110 before 2030 and 115 before 2040.

    1. It requires July maximum temperatures to increase about 9˚F from 20th century levels. I don't think we would get all the way there with a 1.5 or 2.0 degree stabilization scenario, but we're not on a path to do either of those. The possibility of more warming than that can't be ruled out. Much depends on future GHG emissions and other mitigation efforts.

    2. Sorry. 1.5 or 2 degree stabilization scenarios are degrees celsius. Sorry to mix units.

  5. 7/17/2021. Mars doesn't look so stupid now!

  6. The latest GFS MOS looks absolutely horrible. If you believe that, we'll be breaking 115 next week...

    X/N 99| 76 104| 70 98| 79 106| 84 114| 83 108| 79 115| 83 101

    This definitely has a high bias more than a day or two out, but even for our 107F heatwave a couple weeks ago I don't think it was spitting out values this high. I remember seeing a couple 110+ values but don't think it ever output anything over 115.

    And it doesn't look like relief is coming anytime soon. However hot it gets on Wednesday, that is all before both the GFS and Euro develop a 600dam ridge centered somewhere between southern NV and central UT by next weekend, with 700mb temps exceeding 20C on both models by as much as a couple degrees. That is also not a favorable position to get any sort of moisture.

    All of a sudden I don't mind that we have a heat advisory and 103F forecast high tomorrow...

  7. It's not clear to me how/when a temperature is considered valid for a record high. I didn't see any 121F in Washington state but a Hanford mesonet site hit 120F, several others hit 118-119F, and I believe some other sites may have hit 120F too. Richland airport hit 118F. Yet, I see no reports claiming that they set state record highs (old record high of 118F) but Lytton's 121F is considered nearly immediately valid (at least in the press). I'm not disputing it, more questioning the verification process and the assumed accuracy (assuming +/- 1F for claims like warmest ever north of 45N when those of us who work with temperature sensors know that 1C off is common).