Monday, September 10, 2007

Escaping the heat of a record-hot summer

Feel a little overheated this summer? You're not alone. The National Weather Service announced this week that Summer 2007 was the hottest summer on record in Salt Lake City. The average temperature for June, July, and August was 79.3 degrees, beating the previous record (set in 1994) of 78.6 degrees.

79.3 degrees may not seem that warm, but keep in mind that's the average temperature. Every sweltering day tugged that average temperature up, and every cool evening tugged it back down. This year, the hot days were so hot and the evenings so not-that-cool that the average ended up way above normal (by 5.4 degrees). And it's not just this year that it's been warm: five of the top seven hottest Salt Lake summers have been in the last 13 years.

Sweaty humans, high A/C bills, and melted ice cream cones aren't the only results of high summer temps. Warm weather affects all kinds of things in the natural world, including the life cycles and habitats of plants and animals. In fact, Eric Rickart and Becca Rowe, biologists here at UMNH, are using the Museum's collections to understand how things have changed over the years. They're finding out how animals react to the heat by comparing information about small mammals collected in the 1920s to new data the team is collecting now. The work is still in progress, but so far it seems like the animals are moving up higher into the mountains to escape the increasing heat. While Eric and Becca's research is in Nevada, it provides good clues to what might be happening all over the west.

So next time your thermometer reads 103 degrees, maybe it's time to make like the critters and head for the hills. I recommend making some kind plan, because I bet we're not done with off-the charts heat. Let's just hope we all keep our cool.

Other Summer 2007 records:

  • In St. George, July 6th was an all-time record high minimum at 92 degrees (that means it never got cooler than that, even at night!)
  • July was the hottest month ever recorded in Salt Lake City, with an average monthly temperature of 84 degrees (previous record was July 2003 at 83.4 degrees).
  • This August tied with August 2003 for the record high monthly minimum average in Salt Lake City, at 67.8 degrees (that means it stayed really warm, even at night).
  • The summer included 17 days that were 100 degrees or warmer, the 2nd most all-time in a summer, and 47 days over 95 degrees, which is third most all-time.
  • There were 7 record-breaking daily high temperatures in Salt Lake City, on June 16, July 6, July 14, July 15, August 13, August 14, and August 16.
Did you notice any interesting changes due to this summer's warmth? How did the heat affect you?