NASA satellite observes unusually hot July in the Great Plains

August 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 eyes low in eastern Pacific for tropical development

Related Stories

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. If the ...

System 92L in Atlantic getting organized in a tropical way

June 14, 2010

An area of low pressure referred to by meteorologists as "System 92L" in the Atlantic Ocean seems ripe for development and NASA infrared satellite imagery revealed areas in the low that have strong convection. Convection ...

Hurricane Igor, unchained, in NASA satellite images

September 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 collision course ...

NASA satellite captures U.S. 'Big Chill'

February 2, 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.

Tropical Storm Dora bringing rough surf to southern Mexico

July 19, 2011

Tropical Storm Dora was just a depression yesterday. Since then, NASA satellite imagery has watched Dora continue to strengthen as thunderstorm cloud tops have grown much colder. Dora is now stirring up high seas in the eastern ...

NASA satellite shows a mean Irene's fury

August 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 with maximum sustained ...

Recommended for you

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

Quantifying the impact of volcanic eruptions on climate

August 31, 2015

Large volcanic eruptions inject considerable amounts of sulphur in the stratosphere which, once converted into aerosols, block sun rays and tend to cool the surface of the Earth down for several years. An international team ...

1 comment

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.