with Peter Sinclair
So How Hot was it…?
June 22, 2017
We’ll adapt. Just don’t plan on travel, don’t burn yourself with the cold water from your tap, and don’t walk your dog – you might kill it.
What’s an extreme heat wave like in a place that’s accustomed to extreme heat? Here’s a snapshot of Monday:Pacific Standard again:
Also on Monday, American Airlines canceled 38 flights previously scheduled for Phoenix on Tuesday—simply because it will be too hot to fly. It’s not necessarily that the pilots and ground crew will need extra rest, it’s that the planes’ wings themselves weren’t designed to perform under such conditions. Hotter air is thinner, and provides less lift, making it difficult for planes to take off.
- A Phoenix television station broadcast a live webcam of a 600-pound block of ice.
- In Sacramento, California, a team of meteorologists successfully baked cookies and fried bacon inside a car, with temperatures inside the car reaching nearly 200 degrees.
- The United States Border Patrol stepped up safety messages, saying “it is physically impossible for the average person to carry enough water to survive.”
- The National Weather Service also warned against walking pets outdoors, saying that at pavement temperatures above 162 degrees (consistent with air temperatures of 102), skin is instantly destroyed.
As for here in Tucson, where I live, it’s so hot right now, I can’t think straight. Even indoors, a heat like this consumes you. “Cold” water from the tap is hot to the touch. You feel trapped; your daily routine changes to accommodate the inferno. This morning, it was already 85 degrees at 7:30 a.m. Last night, it didn’t drop below 100 until a few minutes before 10 p.m. The last time it was this hot in Tucson, four people died from heat exposure while walking outside. This time around, officials have issued an air-quality advisory to warn of pollution that may become trapped near ground level thanks to the stagnant air.In this video, Phoenix TV Meteorologist Amber Sullins shows how she explains increasing climate fueled heat to red-state viewers.
The atmospheric culprit for the heat is a very intense high pressure, which is itself setting records. Though the statistical databases show this high of high pressure to be an approximately one-in-200-year event, these events have been occurring more often lately—with the last one happening just last year. In short, the background signal of global warming makes the entire atmosphere thinner and less dense, supporting stronger high-pressure centers like the one camped out over Arizona this week, which then tend to get stuck in place—cranking up the thermostat over a multi-state region.
Airlines canceled flights in Phoenix and doctors urged people to be careful around concrete, playground equipment and vehicle interiors Monday as a punishing heat wave threatens to bring temperatures approaching 120 degrees to parts of the Southwestern U.S.Forbes:
Arizona is seeing the most stifling temperatures, but the wrath of the heat wave is being felt across Nevada and California as well. Las Vegas was forecast to hit 117 (47 Celsius) on Tuesday on the first day of summer, and excessive heat warnings cover almost all of California.
The Arizona Republic reported that around 50 flights for Tuesday were cancelled at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. These were primarily regional flights. According to The Arizona Republic
a statement from American Airlines, the American Eagle regional flights use the Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. Tuesday’s forecast for Phoenix includes a high of 120 degrees, and the flights that are affected were to take off between 3 and 6 p.m…..Larger jets that fly out of Sky Harbor have higher maximum operating temperatures: Boeing, 126 degrees, and Airbus, 127 degreesThe science behind why airlines struggle in extreme heat is rather simple. Patrick Smith is a pilot and author of the book Cockpit Confidential. In 2013, Business Insider considered the question of why aircraft struggle in extreme heat. While heat is stressful on some of the planes internal parts, physics is the main reason. Business Insider quotes Smith’s writing:
Hot air is less dense. This affects the output of the engines as well as aerodynamic capabilities, increasing the required runway distance and reducing climb performance. Therefore the amount of passengers and cargo a plane can carry are often restricted when temps are very high……How much so depends on the temperature, airport elevation and the length of the available runways. And getting off the ground is only part of it: once airborne, planes have to meet specific, engine-out climb criterion, so nearby obstructions like hills and towers are another complication.