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Texas Heat Wave of 2009

Posted on July17,2009

Heat Wave

Texas has experienced a record-breaking heat wave between May and at least half of July. The main culprit isn't global warming, but rather a very persistent high- pressure area over the south-central region of the United States.

High-pressure areas, generally looked upon favorably because they usually mean good weather for the area they encompass. -But persistent high-pressure areas that don't move have a darker side.

The air mass within a high-pressure area is mainly cloud free so rain or other precipitation is not possible. The clear sky gives the Sun an unrestricted window to penetrate to the Earth's surface. A persistent high-pressure that lingers over an area for extended periods - up to 2 months or more can have a devastating effect on vegetation.

Watering plants will help, but for a lot of plants fully exposed to the Sun, we still see a stunted growth. The continual exposure to an unrestricted Sun and high temperature difference between the night and day is harmful to some vegetation. Temperature differences, referred to as the temperature split, is sometimes greater than 20˚F within a high-pressure area in a 24-hour period. For instance, if you are experiencing 100˚F in the daytime, you can expect around 80˚F for a low temperature before sunup. Plants like a more even temperature and less radiation from the direct Sunlight to thrive which is why many gardeners and farmers try to shade their plants from the hot afternoon Sun.

I am no climatologist so I cannot explain why our high-pressure area was so persistent. But it was, and the grass outside is crunchy dry. My outside thermometer (electronic sensor) stays shaded by a popcorn tree for most of the day but there are periods when the full light of the Sun is on it. During the shaded times the sensor has registered as much as 104˚F, and in full Sun it has registered an astounding 114˚F.

The cloudless conditions we have been experiencing for the past two months have been painful. I am grateful for being retired because working outside in these conditions is brutal. Whenever I see those who have to be outside to make a living, I am just grateful it is not me. Those people deserve our admiration and respect for what they are going through to make a living.

The end of this period nears as rain chances are starting to appear in the forecast. My assumption is that the grass will green up if we ever get some rain. I don't know, but I hope the grass just goes dormant rather than dying when it gets this dry. We water our main plants but do not have the ability to water the full two acres that I live on, so our yard looks a little polka-dotted with the green splotches where we have been watering.

In spite of a very hot and dry summer, I am expecting a very cold winter. But that is another story.

Stay cool!



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A Physics Major at the University of Texas
Retired from the offshore drilling industry where he worked as an Electrical Supervisor, Licensed Chief Engineer, and Electrical Designer.

Robert Writes for 2 Online Magazines and three private web sites.
Interests include computers, Cosmology, Evolution, and Environmental Research.

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