Friday, September 3, 2010

Endless Summer II: Washington Adds to Record Pace of 90-Degree Streak

5:30 PM Update: The preliminary daily climate report shows the high/low as 91/77. All 3 days so far this month have been at least 10° above the long-term average. The low, if it holds through midnight, will be only 2° lower than the all-time September highest daily minimum set on this date in 1993.

Original post:Despite a high overcast from the far outer fringes of Hurricane Earl, the Washington temperature reached 90° at 4 pm today. This was the 60th day of 90° or higher temperatures at Washington in 2010, and it was achieved 6 days before the same number was reached in the record year of 1980. This puts 2010 in sole possession of second place for total 90° days in a year, behind the 67 of 1980. Today was the 6th consecutive day of 90° temperatures.

Following a cooler Labor Day weekend, 2 more 90°+ days are forecast by the middle of next week. The number of 90°+ days didn't reach 62 in 1980 until September 13. The remaining 5 days that year were September 14, 17, and 21-23.

Images (click to enlarge): Cumulative annual number of days 90° or higher, CapitalClimate chart from National Weather Service data; Visible satellite image of Hurricane Earl moving away from the Mid Atlantic coast, from

Schools Declare Heat Day in Maine

Sept. 7, PM Update: Schools were also closed because of excessive heat in New Hampshire, as reported by WMUR TV, Channel 9:
Heat Closes Schools, Triggers Air Quality Warning

Sept. 3, PM Update: Additional reports of heat-related school closings appear in the Kennebec Journal: Heat closes schools early

Original post:The Lewiston, ME Sun-Journal reports today that some schools in Maine closed or sent students home early on Thursday, the fourth day of a record-breaking heat wave. Schools in Rockland, Augusta, Chelsea and Gardiner were affected. Superintendents reported that they had never before experienced school closings because of heat.

Temperatures in the low and mid 90s extended well into northern Maine, where Bangor set a new record high of 94°, breaking the old record of 93° set in 1953. It was the second day in a row of record temperatures in Bangor, where records extend back to 1925. The Bangor Daily News also reported on school closings resulting from temperatures in some classrooms reaching 100°.

Image (click to enlarge): U.S. high temperatures for Sept. 2, 2010 from Unisys

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Washington Held Heat Hostage: Day 59
Second Highest Total of 90-Degree Days

5:30 PM Update: The preliminary high/low report is in: 95/74. It's the 23rd 24th day this year of temperatures at 95° or higher.

Original post:At 2 pm today, the temperature at Washington bumped up by 4° in an hour to reach 93°. This is now the 59th day of 90° or higher temperatures in 2010, tying the second place record set in 1966 and 1991. The record total was set in 1980 with 67, but this year is ahead of that pace; the 59th day of 90°+ temperatures didn't occur in 1980 until September 6.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Endless Summer: The Heats Keep Coming;
More Record and Near-Record Hot Temperatures

As noted yesterday, meteorological summer 2010 is toast, but the heat continues in the Mid Atlantic area and as far north as Maine. (Yes, astronomical autumn begins around September 21, but summer weather data covers the calendar months of June, July, and August; get over it.) High temperatures today were within a couple of degrees of the September 1 daily records at the major reporting locations in the region. The daily high/low temperatures and records were:
                    Today Records
Washington National 97/75 99/50
Washington Dulles 96/65 98/49
Baltimore BWI 95/69 99/53
Baltimore Downtown 98/77
Charlottesville VA 98/65
Martinsburg WV 96/62 103/44
Hagerstown MD 96/69
Meanwhile, records were set or tied in at least 11 states: West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The highs (old record and date in parentheses):
Beckley WV       88° (tie, 1993)
Bluefield WV 88° (84°, 1997)
Atlantic City NJ 97° (97°, 1941)
Trenton NJ 97° (96°, 1898)
Newark NJ 98° (96°, 1953)
Georgetown DE 96° (95°, 1973)
Reading PA 98° (tie, 1953)
La Guardia NY 96° (95°, 1961/1953)
Kennedy NY 92° (91°, 1969)
Islip NY 93° (87°, 1993)
Bridgeport CT 93° (90°, 1953)
Hartford CT 96° (tie, 1961)
Providence RI 95° (93°, 1980/1969)
Concord NH 95° (93°, 1953)
Bangor ME 95° (tie, 1937)
Caribou ME 92° (88°, 1942)
Houlton ME 93° (91°, 1969)
Millinocket ME 93° (90°, 1969)
Burlington VT 92° (89°, 1953/1937)
The highs at Philadelphia, Central Park NY, and Wilmington of 96° were each within 1° of the record. The Trenton record had not been matched in 111 years. Islip records extend only back to 1986.

Image (click to enlarge): U.S. high temperatures for Sept. 1, 2010 from Unisys

Memo to Pepco: It's Not the Trees, It's Not the Weather; You Suck!

Evening Update: This week's Montgomery Co. edition of the Gazette has an article on Monday's Public Service Commission hearing:
County residents demand greater Pepco regulation

Original post: Last night was the last straw. I was waiting for the midnight (standard time) report to confirm the final record-breaking summer average temperature for Washington when the electricity went out (again).

It doesn't take a power systems engineer to determine that Pepco has fundamental problems with reliability of its electricity grid. It's not the trees! Our subdivision, which was built in 1968, has totally underground utilities. Last night was the second time within about 6 weeks that we've had a multi-hour outage completely unrelated to weather.

In July, we had a 4-hour outage the weekend BEFORE the major storm. The day of the storm, I was watching radar at the time it was approaching. The power went out before the core of the storm reached us. There were no trees down in the neighborhood, but we were out for 21 hours. Friends in an adjoining subdivision, which has above-ground utilities, were out for only a couple of hours.

Last night, after a completely calm day, the lights went out with no warning about 11:50. The entire subdivision with underground power was dark, but I could see the street lights from the above-ground lines 2 houses up the street. The Pepco automated outage reporting system at first gave no estimate of repair time, then 6 am, 4 am, and 2 am. A Pepco truck arrived about 12:30, reset the transformer directly across the street from my computer room, and the lights came back on shortly after the truck had left. After I went through the lengthy process of rebooting the computer and logging back online, the power went out again and didn't come back until about 1:15 or 1:20.

It seems pretty obvious that Pepco has made an economic decision to favor outage reaction over outage prevention. It certainly must be cheaper than upgrading or replacing deteriorated and unreliable 40-year-old infrastructure to instead send out a truck and minimal crew to drive around a neighborhood for a couple of hours of overtime setting and resetting circuit breakers when the system fails repeatedly. As a business decision, that seems to be working for them, since as I write this, their stock is hitting new 52-week highs:

Last Trade [tick] 18.36[+]
Volume 1,240,727
Net Change 0.4100
52 Week High 18.1000 on 08/23/2010

On the other hand, this is not working for customers. It's more than an inconvenience; it's an economic and potentially a public safety issue. I've already taken advantage of the WGES Constellation Electric fixed-rate electricity supply offer, even though I think dropping natural gas prices will lower Pepco's exorbitant rates in the next year. At least it sends a signal. The only further actions I can think of are to spend upwards of $10K on a full-house generator or multiples of $10K on a solar photo-voltaic system.

There must be a solution that is less burdensome on the customer, however. Since Pepco is a monopoly, the only solution is to make it too expensive to continue this policy. I propose the following:
- Establish a level of acceptable service. Given that this is now the second decade of the 21st century, a late 20th century concept of Six Sigma would seem appropriate. This is 3.4 defects per million, or about 1.7 minutes of outage per year per customer.
- If any segment of the system fails to meet the standard, the company should be required to pay a fee at least equal to the cost of replacing the failing segment.
- If the same segment fails again within a year, the company executives and board of directors should be personally liable to pay the fee.

Yes, the system is vulnerable to weather, but this is not the only place in the world where electricity coexists with trees. Pepco's business decision to trade off repair and recovery costs against reliability and redundancy results in far too much collateral damage when there is a storm. The pictures of tree damage in limited areas like Gaithersburg, White Oak, and Silver Spring were very dramatic, but there were nowhere near 300,000 trees down. Yet, 300,000 customers were without power, many for days.

The existence of repeated non-weather-related outages proves that Pepco's attempts to shift the blame from its own system mismanagement are phony.

For more happy campers, see PepcoSucks.
To file a complaint with the Maryland Public Service Commission, go here.

Image (click to enlarge): Pepco Holdings, Inc. stock price for last 12 months, from Fidelity Investments

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Washington Summer Heat Record Clinched By Huge Margin

Midnight Update: It's official; the daily high/low of 96/71 goes into the record books to close out the Summer of Simmer 2010, subject to final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center.

5:25 PM Update: The final high temperature of meteorological summer comes in at 96°, confirming the new record. Updated charts to follow shortly.

5 PM Update: The hourly temperature has returned back to 94°, so the high of 95° is likely to hold, unless there was a higher reading between hours.

4 PM Update: The temperature of 95° at 4 pm clinches the higher summer average of 81.3°, barring an almost physically impossible breakdown in the low by midnight. This smashes the old record for hottest summer of 80.0° in 1980 by an unprecedented margin. The current monthly average also rises, to 80.1°, tying for the 9th hottest August.

3 PM Update: The temperature is 94° for the second consecutive hour.

Original post:
As of 2 pm today, the Washington high/low temperatures so far of 94/71 have broken the hottest average summer temperature record by an unprecedented margin of at least 1.2°. One more degree increase on the high, which is quite likely, would raise that to 1.3°. Normally, even individual monthly average temperature records are broken by only a tenth of a degree, so breaking the 3-month record by 12 or more times that amount is even more remarkable. This is the 52nd day of the summer with a temperature of 90° or higher and the 57th of the year.

Some of the records set this summer:
  • Hottest summer
  • Hottest 3 consecutive months
  • Second hottest of any 2 consecutive months
  • Hottest individual month (tied)
  • Hottest June
  • Hottest July (tied)
  • First time any 3 months in the same year averaged 80° or higher
  • First time summer average daily high exceeded 90°
  • 5 individual daily highs

Monday, August 30, 2010

War on Science Update: UVa 1, AG 0

As promised 10 days ago, a Virginia judge this morning ruled on the state Attorney General's request for University of Virginia documents and emails pertaining to Michael Mann's climate research. The demands by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli were rejected "in their entirety, without prejudice to the Commonwealth to proceed according to the law."

More from:

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.