The Lowcountry is sweating out what could be record heat for the month of July. And the sop won’t stop, forecasters say.
The swelter continues a recent trend of weather extremes that has included record rain, unprecedented flood and even persistent higher-than-normal high tides. The climate, in other words, has been anything but quiet.
The trends here and nationally indicate that climate warming is beginning to have impacts, most researchers agree.
As of Wednesday, the official weather station in North Charleston had recorded an average temperature for the month within 0.4 of a degree of the record 86.1 set in 1986. The forecast calls for highs in the upper 90s and lows near 80 through Monday, the last day of the month.
“It looks pretty favorable that we will at least come pretty close to the record,” said meteorologist Bob Bright, National Weather Service, Charleston.
The unusual heat is part of a pattern persisting across the state, nation and world. No, it’s not going away any time soon, maybe not for three months or more, according to federal Climate Prediction Center forecasts.
The Lowcountry’s official reading station in North Charleston has had higher-than-normal monthly average temperatures since February, Bright said. Many parts of the state are on track to have a “top five” warmest summer, said State Climatologist Hope Mizzell,
A 55-year-old man who died of heat exposure in a Rock Hill park earlier this week had a body temperature of 109, rescue workers said.
The heat has plunged the region, much of the state and parts of the nation into drought or the threat of it, according to the climate center. For Charleston, that’s despite an annual rainfall that’s nearly an inch above average so far this year. However, rainfall here since June 1 is nearly 4 inches below normal, Bright said.
Drought has been a recurring threat for the state since the five-year drought at the turn of the century.
Last week, NASA scientists reported that global surface temperatures and the span of Arctic sea ice broke a number of records through the first half of 2016, according to analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data. They characterized the readings as two key indicators of climate change.
“Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature ... 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the late nineteenth century,” the Goddard Institute for Space Studies website posted.
Fourteen consecutive months through June broke records for warmest global temperatures, according to the NOAA, and the current year is on pace to be warmest on record. Five of the past six months also set records for smallest span of sea ice.
“The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” NASA said.
The winter broke a record for average heat in the United States, and June was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The run of king tides and flood tides in the Lowcountry hasn’t settled, with water regularly rising high in the marsh grasses, even though the record rain and other conditions that often spur them have eased. The usual up and down of the tidal range has been getting higher for years, and “the high water anomalies over the last season or so are likely related relative sea level rise,” said NOAA oceanographer William Sweet.
To most climate researchers, the numbers indicate the weather is reacting to climate warming that has been demonstrated to drive more extreme events. Scientists say the warming is shifting the jet stream and weather that moves with it: While warmer air stores more moisture, releasing it in deluges and causing longer dry spells between rains.
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