Heat Index: What is Causing the Unbearable Weather?

Big bubble of hot air over US

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    (Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
    Children cool off in the water from an opened fire hydrant in the Bronx borough of New York July 19, 2011. A stifling heat wave in the nation's midsection continued on Tuesday, closing government buildings that lacked air-conditioning and prompting warnings to residents to keep as cool as possible.
By R. Leigh Coleman, Christian Post Reporter
July 20, 2011|11:07 am

Relief from the deadly heat and humidity scorching the nation may finally come later today and tomorrow in the form of a cold front moving across Montana dropping temperatures across the north central U.S., forecasters with National Weather Service said today.

However, the searing heat wave will continue to bring misery to most of the nation and continue to spread toward the eastern coast from the Plains.

Triple-digit temperatures are forecasted to remain in place across the eastern U.S. through Saturday before cooling off slightly to the mid-90s by Sunday, the National Weather Service predicts.

The oppressive heat will hit 100 degrees tomorrow across much of the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the southeast.

By the end of the week, residents in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. will face sizzling temperatures at or above 110 degrees.

"It's the hottest weather these cities have had since last summer,” said meteorologist Henry Margusity in reference to the northeast.

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A spokesman with the National Weather Service said more than a thousand heat records have been broken across the United States in the past month.

The National Weather Service reported 13 heat-related deaths across the United States as a result of the intense heat and humidity gripping the nation this week.

In Kansas, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said two residents died while working in their yards.

"The core body temperature of a 65-year-old man who died on Monday while mowing his lawn near Wichita, Kansas, was 107 degrees," Herzet said in a statement.

"It's tragic. People need to stay in when it's this hot, or drink plenty of liquids. They need to know their limits."

The intense high temperatures reportedly have also caused roads and sidewalks to buckle, depression and frustration, and hundreds seeking medical treatment, according to the Daily Oklahoman newspaper.

Oklahoma City saw its 28th day of triple-digit temperatures this year on Monday.

Meteorologists say the reason why the heat is so intense this summer is because it is coupled with near record humidity.

Minneapolis set an all-time record Tuesday when the dew point temperature, which provides an indication of how humid the air is, reached 82 degrees, according to AccuWeather.

"It's like getting slapped in the face with a wet sponge when you walk outside," said senior meteorologist Bernie Rayno in a statement.

"The thing about this heat wave is you have the heat and you have the humidity and you have no wind."

He said with no wind during the day and temperatures not even dropping below 80 degrees at night in many places, there is no relief. Air conditioners are running 24 hours a day.

Forecasters say the reason behind the oppressive weather has to do with the position of the jet stream, which is an area of maximum winds high above the ground.

When there is a large ridge in the jet stream, areas that lie under that ridge can experience heat waves. Meteorologists call this a “big bubble of hot air,” according to AccuWeather.

Because high pressure is associated with sinking air, air from the upper levels of the atmosphere descends and rotates outward; compression effects warm the air, as well as dry it out.

The outward flow also prevents other weather systems from moving in. Because high pressure is also associated with fair skies, cloudiness is kept to a minimum resulting in scorching sunshine.

A ridge is currently located over the central U.S. and has been sending temperatures soaring above 100° from Texas to Montana and the Dakotas.

Health officials say heat kills 162 people on average in the United States every year. Just last month, NOAA released data showing that 30-year temperatures across the United States rose substantially.

 

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