Once upon a time, it used to get uncomfortably hot in June. Remember those days? It was just a few years ago, but after last year’s cakewalk they called “summer”, this year’s heat is going to seem downright brutal and unforgiving. A heat wave is cranking up in the southeast right now, and it’s going to get ugly.
Toasty temperatures are dominating the country this afternoon, with 90s being reported from the desert southwest straight into portions of the Northeast. New York’s LaGuardia Airport is sitting at 91°F as I write this. Today’s high in Indianapolis means they’ve hit 90°F twice already this year, a reading the city only saw three times in 2014. Compared to last year’s cooler-than-normal temperatures, it feels like hell and it’s not even the start of astronomical summer (which is June 21).
Why us? A solid ridge of high pressure is in the process of parking itself over the southeastern United States at the moment, and it should remain there through at least the beginning of next week. Ridges are boring—high pressure and sinking air go hand-in-hand, so locations stuck under the ridge tend to see warm, relatively calm weather. This is why California currently looks like Spongebob visiting Sandy’s house without his water helmet.
If any good comes from it, this heat wave is a wonderful example of seemingly-unrelated weather events all sharing a common connection. We usually see active weather around the edge of a ridge (see also: derechos), and the fine folks caught on the edge of this ridge will see days and days of heavy rain (sorry!). The ridge is also playing a part in Tropical Storm Carlos making a hasty exit stage left away from Mexico. It’s all related!
The worst temperatures will likely unfold across the Carolinas and Georgia in a corridor roughly between I-20 and I-95, where temperatures will push 100°F for at least four days if current predictions hold true. Beginning tomorrow, the average high temperature in Columbia, South Carolina, stay at or above 90°F through August 27. Keeping that in mind, here are the forecast highs in Columbia for the next seven days from the National Weather Service:
Each of those forecast high temperatures comes within a degree or two of tying or breaking record highs at Columbia Metro Airport, records at which extend back to 1948. We’ll see a similar story play out in cities across the area.
Dew points in the region will also hover around 70°F for the duration of the heat wave, so heat index values will likely exceed 100-105°F at times, which is dangerous if you’re outdoors for an extended period of time without breaks or adequate water. This is the southeast, though, so just about everyone is used to preparing for and dealing with the heat. We’ll get through it...it just sucks that it’s starting earlier rather than later, to put it in technical terms.
[Images: AP, Tropical Tidbits, author | Corrected to reflect that the forecast for Columbia, SC, was generated by the National Weather Service.]