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Summer heat has climate scientists seeing red

Heat Wave
Marta Lavandier
Children play at a water park, Monday, June 13, 2022, in Miami Beach, Fla. More than 100 million Americans are being warned to stay indoors if possible as high temperatures and humidity settle in over states stretching through parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolinas.

Summer officially began at 4:13 a.m. Tuesday, but Pensacola has already gotten a head start on potentially dangerous high temperatures.

And more are on the way.

“It looks like some of the warmest weather that you’ve had (in Pensacola) in quite some time is headed your way,” said Justin Ballard, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.

People living on the Panhandle are well-acquainted with steamy summer days. The highest recorded temperature at Pensacola International Airport was 106 degrees on July 14, 1980. In the past 20 years, the hottest summer on record was in the year 2000.

“There were eight over-100-degree days during the summer months of 2000,” Ballard said. “Eight days above 100 degrees. In 2011, there were three days over 100. In 2019 there were three days over 100, and this year you’ve already had one.”

That 100-degree day was Saturday, which is the record high for that date. Ballard says that the western Panhandle will be the hottest spot in the state this week and could see temperatures of 101 or 102 through Friday.

Among climate scientists, the first day of summer is also known as “Show Your Stripes Day.”

“The ‘Show Your Stripes’ campaign is a visual way of representing climate change,” Ballard said. Worldwide climate data are compiled from the beginning of the Industrial Age to the present, with each year represented by a colored stripe.

Institute for Environmental Analytics
The 'Show Your Stripes' campaign represents the changes in temperature through the years. Here are Florida's stripes representing changes in climate from 1895 to 2021.

“Blue represents temperatures that are below the baseline average,” Ballard said. “And red, or shades of red, represent above average. So really, when you are looking at temperatures on a global scale the trend is not hard to recognize.”

The climate stripes were created in 2018 by Professor Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading in the U.K. Since then, the graphics have been downloaded over a million times and have been used by broadcast meteorologists around the globe.

This year has not been given its colored stripe yet, but given the forecast for the next week or so, there’s a good chance that we’ll once again be seeing red.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.