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Did July Seem Hot? It's the Cool of the Future

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Yes, you read the title correctly. July of 2010 will be remembered as a cool one, even in the northeast corridor.

Boston sweat through 8 days of above-90 degree Fahrenheit heat last month. New York City endured 14; Philadelphia suffered 17; and Washington, DC sweltered through 20. These numbers are all well above historical averages (5, 7, 11, and 13 days, respectively) -- but they are beneath multiple scientific projections for the average July by just the middle of this century, assuming little action is taken to reduce pollution of heat-trapping gases.

Under this scenario, Boston can expect an average of 12 July days above 90, New York can expect 16, Philadelphia 21, and Washington, DC 22.

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Using a different measure, the monthly average temperature, July 2010 was also well above historical averages in northeast corridor cities, but about the same as temperatures projected for 2050.

My colleague and Climate Central scientist Claudia Tebaldi conducted this analysis using historical data and output from 16 leading global climate models. More detail, illustrations and a description of methodology are available on the Climate Central website.

High temperatures in a limited area for a limited time can't be taken as evidence for climate change. However, July's heat comes in the context of a report just released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluding that the 2000's were easily the hottest decade since records began, with numerous other global indicators also pointing toward unequivocal warming. In addition, independent analyses by NOAA and NASA both indicate that January through June 2010 was the hottest such period on record. Climate scientists project the long-term warming trend to continue and accelerate, in the absence of measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Heat stress is the largest weather-related cause of death in the United States, more than floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. Hot summers also strain the electricity supply due to high demand for air conditioning, as widespread northeast brownouts this summer have testified. Without measures to prepare for the change, these problems will intensify with further warming.

And so will our yearning for the cool old days of 2010.

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