07/06/12 This is the response to my question to MY FAVORITE METEROLOGIST and adopted state representative Jim Ott on the current heat

wave:

Hi Jim! I have a weather question! Is there a weather pattern that explains the drought, heat in the mid-atlantic and the storms in the east?

Hi Vicki, The way we normally get excessive heat in Wisconsin is when a part of the subtropical high pressure region (which is a part of what's called the subtropical high pressure belt that extends around the entire earth) moves farther north than normal into the Western Atlantic and Southeastern Untited States. That pushes the jet stream farther north into Canada, and keeps our winds aloft out of the southwest. So cooler air is held up in Canada and it's very difficult to get a cool front into southern Wisconsin. Usually after a few days or a week the pattern reverts to a more normal one, the high moves back to the south, and the jet stream moves back into the northern United States. That allows cooler air masses to move back into Wisconsin every few days, and we get our more normal 70s and 80s. As you know these hot spells in Wisconsin normally happen a few times each summer, so we get an average of about 5 to 20 days in the 90s, depending upon how far south and how close you are located to Lake Michigan. The current hot spell has been more intense than usual, I believe in part because of the dry conditions that mean there is less water to evaporate from the surface. Evaporating water uses heat energy, and when there is less water more of the heat energy from the sun is available to heat the air. So a drought tends to feed on itself, just as very wet periods tend to feed on themselves because there is more water available for evaporation into the air. As for the storms in the east, much of that seemed to be related to the moisture from the remnants of the tropical storm that affected Florida earlier and then gradually drifted up the east coast. The tropical storm/hurricane season is considered to begin in June and last through November, because that's the usual time period when ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf are warm enough to produce hurricanes, which is around 82 degrees F. I know this is a much longer answer than you needed but the entire weather process is pretty interesting. Jim

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