NASA satellite observes unusually hot July in the Great Plains

Aug 31, 2011
Note the hot tropical air being pumped towards Texas and Oklahoma (dark red). Credit: NASA/Goddard Earth Science Data and Information Center

Much of the United States sweated through an unusually humid heat wave during July, a month that brought record-breaking temperatures to many areas across the Great Plains. As temperatures soared, NASA satellites observed the unusual weather from above.

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), an instrument launched on the Aqua satellite in 2002, is unique in its ability to yield highly accurate data about the , the lowest layer of the atmosphere and the part that most directly affects life on Earth.

Hot temperatures struck Texas and Oklahoma particularly hard, AIRS observed. Large swaths of both of these states persistently experienced highs above 100° F (311 K) during the day for the month of July. Nights offered only minimal relief with low temperatures averaging close to 90° F (305 K) for the month. That's about 20° F warmer, both day and night, than the average July temperatures for the past eight years of AIRS observations.

AIRS also offered clues about what may have caused the persistent heat spell. Domes of high atmospheric surface pressure normally intensify in the summer over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. However, AIRS data shows they were abnormally strong in July.

Meanwhile, AIRS data for the month of July reveals a clock-wise vortex of winds driven by the high pressure in the North Atlantic. The vortex continuously pumped hot and humid air from the tropics through the heart of the Gulf of Mexico and into much of the continental United States throughout July.

The jet stream, which typically produces loops around low-pressure areas that break off and brings cooler air and precipitation, offered little relief. The flow of the jet stream instead consistently bulged over the high-pressure aloft over the United States.

Explore further: NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA satellite captures U.S. 'Big Chill'

Feb 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The current winter storm system blasting much of the United States is depicted in this new NASA satellite image from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite.

NASA eyes low in eastern Pacific for tropical development

May 27, 2010

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured an infrared image of a low pressure area called "90E" in the Eastern Pacific that forecasters are watching for tropical development. ...

NASA satellite shows a mean Irene's fury

Aug 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- After pounding North Carolina and Virginia on Aug. 27, Hurricane Irene made a second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, N.J., early Sunday morning, Aug. 28, still as a category one hurricane ...

Hurricane Igor, unchained, in NASA satellite images

Sep 20, 2010

While its intensity has dropped slightly, massive Hurricane Igor remains a powerful Category Three storm, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 105 knots (115 miles per hour) as it continues on a projected ...

Recommended for you

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

17 hours ago

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

17 hours ago

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
2 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2011
Yes, July was hot in the Midwest.

But that does not confirm Al Gore's story.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.