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The Dog Days of September?

98° 99° 100° 101°

I so enjoyed photographing the stars at Glacier that just a few days after returning from Montana, I decided to drive to the Eastern Sierras to take advantage of the impending New Moon and the promise of clear skies in the forecast.

I got the clear skies (most nights). But instead of the 80-degree days that had forecast for Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, a front pushing onto the West coast caused the temperature to soar—as much as 20° higher than expected. Day after day of near- or over-hundred degree temperatures baked the high-desert terrain, making it truly uncomfortable (and dangerous) to be out during the hottest part of the day.

Here’s what’s really bizarre. And troubling. As I wrote the paragraph above, I realized that I had just experienced this same rude awakening in Montana. The temperatures I encountered in Glacier proved nearly 20° warmer than those forecast. Even near the Canadian border and at 6000-plus feet of elevation, temperatures soared many days into the 90s. I’ve visited Glacier in early August numerous times, and I don’t remember ever encountering temperatures that high for so many days in a row.
But that was then. That was before the effects of climate change have made elevated temperatures the new normal for all of us. Wherever we may journey on this planet.

As the Washington Post’s Jason Samenow reports, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have both released data revealing that “the Earth’s temperature reached its highest point in 136 years of record-keeping during July.” Though data has yet to be compiled for August, the record set in July “was the 15th straight month of recording-breaking temperatures in NOAA’s analysis and 10th-straight in NASA’s, passing the previous hottest Julys by substantial margins.”

Now some might say that we’ve probably experienced 15 straight months of record-breaking heat before. And in the 4.5 billion-year history of the planet we probably have. During previous episodes of climate change—caused then by natural geologic and climatic forces over the course of hundreds of thousands or millions of years—rising temperatures warmed the ocean, land, and atmosphere, wreaking havoc on a global scale. Unfortunately, we’ve managed to accomplish this feat in less than 200 years as a result of man-made, rather than natural, causes.

And the heat has been on for more than 15 straight months. This past month of July was actually the “ ‘379th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average,’ NOAA said.” Some areas experienced particularly extreme heat:

‘Blistering heat,’ reports Samenow, ‘scorched the Middle East. Mitribah, Kuwait, simmered to 129.2 degrees which, if confirmed, would mark the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere.’

Jason Furtado, “a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma,” suggests that “the record global warmth was connected to extreme weather events happening around the world, such as the urban flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland, and record flooding in China. ‘The two are going hand-in-hand, and they’re giving us a picture of what a future world might look like,’ he said.”

If you’re interested in or concerned about Global Warming and Climate Change, you’ll find more information about both phenomena and their effects on the planet in the following articles:

July Was Hottest Month on Record
La Niña Fizzles, Making Record wWarm Global Temperatures more Likely
Scientists Have Found a Perfect Illustration of How the Climate is Spiraling ‘Out of Control’
America is Too Damn Hot: U.S. Faces Dramatic Rise in Extreme Heat and Humidity
Global Temperatures Are on Course for Another Record This Year
Climate Change in 5 Charts
June Was Earth’s 14th Straight Record Warm Month, Greenland Loses Shocking 1 Trillion Tons of Ice
Hottest June Ever: Record-setting Warming Streak Continues
Global Warming [Wikipedia]
Confronting the Realities of Climate Change
Climate Change: How Do We Know
Global Warming 101
Global Warming: News, Facts, Causes & Effects
Climate Change [National Geographic]