America in recent years has been sweltering through three times more than its normal share of extra-hot summer nights, government weather records show. And that is a particularly dangerous trend.
During heat waves, like the one that now has a grip on much of the East, one of the major causes of heat deaths is the lack of night cooling that would normally allow a stressed body to recover, scientists say.
Some scientists say the trend is a sign of manmade global warming.
A top federal research meteorologist said he "almost fell out of my chair" when he looked over U.S. night minimum temperature records over the past 96 years and saw the skyrocketing trend of hot summer nights.
From 2001 to 2005, on average nearly 30 percent of the nation had "much above normal" average summertime minimum temperatures, according to the National Climatic Data in Asheville, N.C.
By definition, "much above normal" means low temperatures that are in the highest 10 percent on record. On any given year about 10 percent of the country should have "much above normal" summer-night lows.
Yet in both 2005 and 2003, 36 percent of the nation had much above normal summer minimums. In 2002 it was 37 percent. While the highest-ever figure was in the middle of America's brutal Dust Bowl, when 41 percent of the nation had much above normal summer-night temperatures, the rolling five-year average of 2001-05 is a record - by far.
Figures from this year's sweltering summer have not been tabulated yet, but they are expected to be just as high as recent years.
And it is not just the last five years. Each of the past eight years has been far above the normal 10 percent. During the past decade, 23 percent of the nation has had hot summer nights. During the past 15 years, that average has been 20 percent. By comparison, from 1964 to 1968 only 2 percent of the country on average had abnormally hot nights.
"This is unbelievable," said National Climatic Data Center research meteorologist Richard Heim. "Something strange has happened in the last 10 to 15 years on the minimums."
Yet, as today's WaPo noted that: OVER THE PAST two weeks, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has held a pair of truly senseless hearings on global climate change. The purpose was not to figure out how to cut carbon emissions. It wasn't even to discuss the science of global climate change in general. Instead, the purpose was to pick at a single study of global temperature patterns, the so-called "hockey stick" graph -- a trend line that purports to show a sudden and dramatic increase in global temperatures in the 1990s and therefore looks like a hockey stick. The graph is hardly central to the modern debate over climate change. Yet the subcommittee has investigated the scientists who dared produce it and hounded them for information. Now that a study of the graph by the National Academy of Sciences has largely backed up the hockey stick findings, the committee has been holding hearings to attack it some more..
That's what happens when you vote for Republicans. That what happens when Diebold steals elections and we don't riot in the streets. That's what happens when the corporatists take over America. (And, just in case you harbor some small amount of doubt as to whether or not that's happened, go read this.)
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."