Weather and Health: Hot Cars Can Be Dangerous for Kids

Warm weather can pose a number of health and safety concerns, from poor air quality to being hit by lightning. One of the more deadly risks for children, however, is heatstroke when they are left in a hot car.

Since 1998, according to kidsandcars.org, there has been an average of 38 hot car deaths in the US every year. That is one every nine days. This year, there have already been 11 deaths reported and the official start of summer is still more than a week away.

Credit: USA Today

On a sunny day, the interior temperature of a parked car can increase 19°F in just ten minutes. That means if the outside air temperature is a seemingly comfortable 70°F, the inside of the car can heat up to near 90°F in a very short period. The situation is even worse when the outside temperature is higher and the car sits in the sun longer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if the human body reaches 104°F, organ damage and death become a real risk. Children are even more vulnerable because their smaller bodies can heat up between three to five times faster than that of an adult. Most hot car victims are under the age of three.

These dangerous situations develop in a number of different ways. Children can sometimes find their own way into a car while playing outside or a guardian leaves them alone in a vehicle for what seems like a quick errand. However, the majority of hot car deaths occur when a parent or caregiver gets distracted or has a change in their daily routine and simply forgets that a child is in the back seat when they park their car.

To avoid a heartbreaking tragedy, remember to Look Before You Lock!

806 children have died in hot cars since 1998 in the US. Year to date for 2019, there have been 11. Credit: NoHeatStroke.org

Weather Lingo: A 500-Year Flood

Flooding rain events are becoming more common in many parts of the United States. But, the terms used to describe some of them, such as “100-year flood” or “500-year flood”, can be misleading.

While these phrases can make it sound like the flooding is cyclical, only happening once every 100 or 500 years, it is not. Storms are not on a schedule. Rather, these terms refer to statistical probabilities. For example, the “100-year flood” means there is a 1% chance of a flood of that magnitude happening in any given year in a given location. For the 500-year flood, the probability is 0.2%.

Given the right conditions, it is possible to see multiple 100-year or 500-year flood events in a relatively short period of time. Ellicott City, MD, for example, recently saw two 1000-year flood events only two years apart. For more information, watch the video below from the NWS.

Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers

Climate change is a complex scientific subject with a plethora of data-rich reports that detail its causation and diverse impacts. However, as important as all that information is, not everyone responds to facts and figures or charts and graphs. That is why art, which taps into human emotion and tells visual stories, can help create new pathways to understanding this global issue.

Marking World Environment Day on June 5, I will be discussing this idea in a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the UN Committee of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT. Blending the qualitative and quantitative, this talk reviews the results of a recent poll that measured the influence climate-art has on people’s opinions and highlights specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

As the famous scientist, Lord Kelvin, said, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” If that is true, then art has an important role to play in helping to broaden the public conversation on climate change.

Credit: Melissa Fleming/The Weather Gamut

May 2019: A Soggy Month for NYC

May was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. Producing several cases of weather whiplash, highs ranged from a chilly 48°F to an unseasonably balmy 86°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 62.2°F, which is only 0.2°F below average.

On the precipitation side of things, May was unusually wet. The month brought the city a relatively rare spring nor’easter and several impressive thunderstorms. One of which produced golf ball sized hail on Staten Island, one the city’s five boroughs. Overall, 19 out 31 days posted measureable rainfall that added up to 6.82 inches for the month. While that is a soggy statistic, it was not the wettest May the city has seen. That dubious honor belongs to May 1989 when 10.24 inches of rain was measured in Central Park. The city, on average, gets 4.19 inches for the month.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

Names for the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Today is the first day of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Although one named storm, Andrea, already formed, the season officially runs from June 1 to November 30.

Since 1950, each tropical storm or hurricane to form in the Atlantic has been given a unique name. They come from a set of six rotating lists produced by the World Meteorological Organization. A name is retired only when a storm was particularly noteworthy – causing a large number of fatalities or an extraordinary amount of damage.

Some notable retired names include:  Harvey, Irma, Katrina, Maria, Michael, and Sandy. The names for this year’s storms are listed below.

Credit: NOAA

Strong Storm Pelts NYC Borough with Large Hail

A powerful thunderstorm moved through New York City on Tuesday night. Generating strong winds and heavy rain across area, it also brought hail to Staten Island, one of the city’s outer boroughs.

According to reports, hailstones measuring 1.8 inches in diameter came down in the Bull’s Head neighborhood. Roughly the size of golf balls, it was the largest hail reported in the city since 2011.

The storm was strong enough to warrant a tornado warning for the area, but luckily no twisters touched down in the five boroughs. Nonetheless, the large hail is a testament to the storm’s intensity. Simply put, the stronger the updraft of a storm, the longer hailstones remain suspended, allowing them to grow larger.

The largest hailstone ever recorded in the US was found in Vivian, South Dakota on June 23, 2010. It measured 7.9 inches in diameter and weighed 1.94 pounds.

Large hail fell from an intense thunderstorm over Staten Island, NYC on May 28, 2019. Image Credit: Staten Island Advance/ J Yates

The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

The number of hurricanes that develop in the Atlantic basin varies from year to year. For 2019, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near average season.

Tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the United States, develop around the globe at different times of the year. In this country, we are most impacted by the Atlantic hurricane season, which affects the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. It runs from June 1 through November 30.

Overall, NOAA predicts a 70% likelihood of nine to fifteen named storms forming this season, of which four to eight could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes. An average season produces twelve named storms, including six hurricanes and three that become major hurricanes.

A major hurricane is one that is rated category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

This year’s outlook, according to NOAA, reflects several competing factors. On one side, there are above average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to fuel any storms that develop. Additionally, there is an enhanced west African monsoon in place that can initiate disturbances that turn into storms over the Atlantic. On the other hand, there is an ongoing El Niño event. El Niño conditions in the Pacific tend to cause increased wind shear in the Atlantic, which suppresses tropical development in that basin.

Last year, 2018, saw a very destructive hurricane season in the Atlantic. It produced fifteen named storms, including, Florence and Michael.

Regardless of the number of storms that actually form this year, it is important to remember that it only takes one land-falling system to make it an impactful season.

Subtropical Storm Andrea Kicks Off the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Early

Subtropical Storm Andrea, the first named storm of 2019, has kicked off the Atlantic Hurricane Season early. Its arrival marks the fifth year in a row to produce a pre-season storm.

Forming south of Bermuda on Monday, it generated winds measured up to 40mph. However, did not last long. It dissipated quickly as it moved north into cooler conditions.

Classified as subtropical, Andrea was a hybrid between a tropical storm and a regular low-pressure system usually found at higher latitudes. A tropical system is fueled by the latent heat released by the evaporation of ocean water while a regular storm is powered by the temperature contrast between air masses. Hybrids are able to access both energy sources.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic is officially designated as June 1 to November 30, but there is nothing inherently magical about those dates. While conditions for storm development are traditionally more likely during that time, storms can form anytime when given the right environment.

Other recent out-of-season storms include: Alberto and Beryl in 2012, Ana in 2015, Alex and Bonnie is 2016, Arlene in 2017, and Alberto in 2018. It is worth nothing that Alex formed in January 2016, but was really more of a late remnant of the 2015 hurricane season.

Subtropical Storm Andrea becomes first named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. Credit: NOAA

A Springtime Case of Weather Whiplash in NYC

Spring is a transitional season where a few cold snaps and warm spells are not that uncommon. This week in New York City, however, it felt like we jumped from March to July in only seven days.

On Monday, May 13, the high topped out at a mere 48°F. This set a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date. The previous record of 49°F had been in place since 1914.

Then, on Monday, May 20, the mercury soared to 85°F.  While not a record breaker, it was the warmest day of the year in the city, to date.

The normal high for this time of year is in the low 70s.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

April 2019: Earth’s Second Warmest April on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with April 2019 marking the second warmest April ever recorded on this planet. Only April 2016 was warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.37°F. That is 1.67°F above the 20th-century average. April was also the 412th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet in April, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Greenland, Scandinavia, and Asia. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.

For many people in the contiguous US, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, this April was relatively cool. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first four months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

April 2019 was Earth’s second warmest April on record. Credit: NOAA