Hot news! Extreme weather hits Lake CountyFlash flooding caught the area off guard on June 20. Then, unusually warm temperatures hit Silver Bay and Two Harbors last week.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
In the last year, the United States has had its warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Some areas have experienced extreme weather events: forest fires in Colorado, storms and sweltering temps in the central and eastern parts of the country, and a drought followed by tropical storm flooding in Florida.
Lake County has had its own extreme weather. Flash flooding caught the area off guard on June 20. Then, unusually warm temperatures hit Silver Bay and Two Harbors last week.
While NOAA doesn’t attribute each event to global warming, a recent report by the agency says these events are all more likely because of human-induced climate change.
Scientists at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency say that the state’s climate could eventually match that of warmer parts of the country.
“Minnesota might soon feel and look more like Missouri,” a fact sheet on the MPCA website states.
The state has warmed an average of 1 degree Fahrenheit during the past century, the MPCA reports.
So is the recent heat wave a glimpse at the future?
“Generally, I don’t think we’re seeing an increase in extreme summer heat,” said Peter Ciborowski, an environmental research scientist with the MPCA in St. Paul. Things get tricky when you ask how global warming translates to one event, he said.
A better indicator is a change in overall averages. While the effects will vary globally, in Minnesota, this translates to warmer winters, Cibrowski said. Average highs in Minnesota’s coldest months will rise. That doesn’t necessarily mean more summer heat waves, though.
“The likelihood of a very hot summer hasn’t seemed to have changed too much from what it was 50 or 100 years ago,” Cibrowski said.
The June storm is another story. Extreme weather events have always been a part of the earth’s history, Cibrowski said, but their occurrence will probably increase as a result of climate change.
For example, the storm in June has been referred to as a 500-year storm, which means it’s a weather event that is likely to occur only once every half-millennia —a 0.2% chance each year.
According to Cibrowski, that probability is likely to increase because of climate change. What used to be a 100-year storm could become a 50-year storm with a 2% chance of happening any given year.
Jennifer Theimann, district manager of the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, said that due to the global increase in extreme weather events, designations such as “100-year storm” may need to be revised or discontinued.
Carol Christenson is a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service based in Duluth. She’s been on the job for 20 years and explained the heat wave in Northeastern Minnesota in purely meteorological terms.
“The air mass just sits over us,” she said, detailing how a high-pressure system has settled over the Midwest, drawing warm and humid air to the region.
But Christenson’s seen warmer.
“There have been hot days before, much hotter than we’ve had (this past week). It can get very hot in this region,” she said.
Christenson said more stifling temperatures are in store this week and advised residents to keep their cool in the heat.
“Take it easy. If yard work needs to be done, do it in small bits during cooler hours,” she said.
Pets need to keep cool, too. While the Two Harbors Veterinary Clinic has had no heat stroke cases yet this summer, Dr. Robyn Ball advises pet owners to use extra caution when temperatures are high
Make sure pets have a shady place to rest or keep them inside. Give them access to lots of water, keep them off the asphalt, and know the warning signs of heat stroke, she said. Dogs with heat stroke will pant vigorously, have dark red gums, and be unwilling or unable to get up.
“Absolutely do not leave them in a parked car, even if the windows are down,” Dr. Ball said.