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Records broken, rides unridden: The endless summer heat wave burns on
Remember when our rides used to only get canceled because of the rain? Better yet, remember rain? What a long and painful summer this has been. It’s certainly been one for the record books. In fact, for the first time in my life, California was hit by a hurricane, and Louisiana is experiencing a record drought that’s sparking wildfires.
Another first for me is being asked to limit water use. Baton Rouge has never really had to worry about water, except for having too much of it. The Baton Rouge Water Co. and Ascension Parish are asking customers to conserve water.
"The stresses caused by the current ongoing and record-breaking heat, and the complete lack of rain, are causing never before seen high demands on the water system," Patrick Kerr, president of Baton Rouge Water, said to The Advocate. "With your help conserving water, we will get through this drought, too.”
Running out of water right now is a huge concern because the state is literally on fire. According to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, there have been 441 fires from August 1 to August 24 that have destroyed roughly 8.35 acres.
Additionally, there’s a massive wildfire on Tiger Island that’s still burning and is estimated to destroy more than 20,000 acres. Beauregard Parish Sheriff Mark Herford said it’s officially the largest fire ever recorded in Louisiana. He says firefighters are straight up exhausted after working this blaze for nearly a week. He says, “Nobody in our state has had to address a fire like this before."
Obviously, the state is under a burn ban and has been since August 7. Just to give you an idea of how bad it is, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference, “Nobody alive in Louisiana has ever seen these conditions. It’s never been this hot, this dry, for this long.”
The smoke from all the fires is now visible in Baton Rouge.
Blame it on the Heat Dome
All of this heat is being attributed to a heat dome. What the heck is a heat dome and how do we get rid of it?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a heat dome is basically what it sounds like. It happens when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or cap.
The reason why I’m citing NOAA here is because a lot of what we’re dealing with is due to the ocean. Remember earlier this summer when people were talking about how warm the ocean is this year? Well, that’s part of what’s causing all of this heat.
“A team of scientists funded by the NOAA MAPP Program investigated what triggers heat domes and found the main cause was a strong change (or gradient) in ocean temperatures from west to east in the tropical Pacific Ocean during the preceding winter.”
Since the 1970s, we’ve been seeing a steady increase in the temperature of the ocean. The ocean has been doing the heavy lifting up until now to absorb all of the warming that has been occurring. That warming is linked to the increase of greenhouse gasses. If you’re questioning where that science came from, check out what Exxon’s own scientists predicted back in the 1970s.
I bring up that fact because I have friends who work in media who didn’t catch that story, so don’t worry if this is new information for you.
So, the bad news is that there really is no way for us to avoid heat domes. And, as the temperature of the ocean continues to warm, it’s going to get worse. Scientists already predict 2024 to be even warmer than this year because of El Niño.
El Niño is a natural climate pattern that brings warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures. This pattern has just started but isn't causing an impact yet. Next year, however, it will be in full force.
Record Breaking Heat
In an article titled “Record Heat Scorches Dallas As Hell Summer Continues Across U.S.,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Grigsby said, “This is the hottest summer we’ve ever recorded.”
Just this weekend, we recorded our 29th time this year of a temperature over 100 degrees.
“This is now the all-time record for the most trip digits in the history of Baton Rouge,” explains WAFB Meteorologist Jared Silverman.
The most consecutive days in a year greater than or equal to 110 degrees were first broken this summer during the stretch of July 29 to August 5.
Now, that’s rough, but there are certainly more record-breaking heat waves that happened throughout history, even though this feels like the worst. Around here, the years of 1909, 1921, 1924, and 1962 are all periods of record breaking temperatures involving heat.
It should come as no surprise that the hottest part of the city is downtown. All of the concrete makes for a nice oven effect. Then, the Mississippi River serves up the humidity to send the heat index soaring.
But it’s not just hot here. It’s hot everywhere! And, the biggest record of all has been broken. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.
When Will it End?
Good question, but we just don’t know yet. We did see some nice pops of rain last week and there’s a good chance of rain this week, too. And probably the most encouraging sign I’ve seen in recent weeks has been a forecast without the number 100 in it.
We will ride again, don’t worry. But the whole purpose of this ride is to have fun, be social, and most importantly, safety. This weather is not safe. It’s dangerous. So please, limit your exposure to the early morning hours and the evening, don’t push yourself, and save your water for drinking, not for watering grass.