Hundreds of people are missing and dozens confirmed dead in some of the worst flooding in European history:
Following a day of frantic rescue efforts and orders to evacuate towns rapidly filling with water unloosed by violent storms, the German authorities said late Thursday that after confirming scores of deaths, they were unable to account for at least 1,300 people.
That staggering figure was announced after swift-moving water from swollen rivers surged through cities and villages in two western German states, where the death toll passed 90 on Friday in the hardest-hit regions and other fatalities were expected.
The devastation caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.
“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.
I hope the rains abate long enough, and the rivers empty quickly enough, to limit the damage and deaths that continue today.
On Friday, Death Valley National Park hit 55°C—130°F—on Friday and 54°C yesterday. Friday's temperature tied the record for the highest-known temperature on the planet:
As the third massive heat wave in three weeks kicked off in the West on Friday, Death Valley, Calif., soared to a searing 130 degrees. If confirmed, it would match the highest known temperature on the planet since at least 1931, which occurred less than a year ago.
Death Valley also hit 130 degrees last August, which at the time preliminarily ranked among the top three highest temperatures ever measured on the planet. It is still being reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization, which is the arbiter of international weather records.
The 130-degree reading observed Friday and last August only trail two other high temperatures ever measured on the planet: 1) The high of 134 set in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, and 2) a 131-degree reading from Kebili, Tunisia, set July 7, 1931.
But Christopher Burt, an expert on world weather extremes, questions the legitimacy of both of those measurements. He called the 1913 Death Valley reading “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective” and wrote that the 1931 Tunisia reading has “serious credibility issues.”
In other words, the 130-degree readings from Death Valley on Friday and last year, if validated, may be the highest pair of reliably measured temperatures ever observed on Earth.
The National Weather Service forecasts today's high will hit 54°C again. By the time the heat wave finally breaks (sort of) on Tuesday, the weather station will have tied the record for the most consecutive days above 52°C (125°F):
The record for the number of consecutive days at 125 degrees or higher is 10, set in 1913 (June 28-July 5). This year, Death Valley hit 126 on July 7 and will likely continue that stretch of days with 125-plus temperatures through Tuesday. This would be eight straight days, which would be the second-longest streak in recorded history (tying eight days in 2013).
"An anomalously strong high pressure system overhead will remain overhead for multiple days," said Chelsea Peters, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas. "When the overnight low is warmer than the previous day's and similar temperature trends are expected, the daytime high would likely end up being just as hot, or hotter than the previous day."
Here in Chicago, we've got an England-like 20°C with very English rain, which could continue through Tuesday.
Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (which I read last November while staring out at one of them), explains in yesterday's New York Times how climate change will cause problems here in Chicago:
[T]he same waters that gave life to the city threaten it today, because Chicago is built on a shaky prospect — the idea that the swamp that was drained will stay tamed and that Lake Michigan’s shoreline will remain in essentially the same place it’s been for the past 300 years.
Lake Michigan’s water level has historically risen or fallen by just a matter of inches over the course of a year, swelling in summer following the spring snowmelt and falling off in winter. Bigger oscillations, a few feet up or down from the average, also took place in slow, almost rhythmic cycles unfolding over the course of decades.
In 2013, Lake Michigan plunged to a low not seen since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s, wreaking havoc across the Midwest. Marina docks became useless catwalks. Freighter captains couldn’t fully load their ships. And fears grew that the lake would drop so low it would no longer be able to feed the Chicago River, the defining waterway that snakes through the heart of the city.
That fear was short-lived. Just a year later, in 2014, the lake started climbing at a stunning rate, ultimately setting a record summertime high in 2020 before drought took hold and water levels started plunging again.
Egan explains in detail what that means for us, culminating in the harrowing near-disaster of 17 May 2020, when record rains combined with a record-high lake to make draining downtown Chicago almost impossible.
I should note that, after falling for 11 consecutive months, the lake has started to rise again (blue line), and we haven't even gotten down to our long-term average (green line):
I've said for decades that Chicago will fare better than most places, but that doesn't mean we'll have it easy. Nowhere will.
At the moment, the 10 hottest places in the world are all in the Pacific Coast states and British Columbia. The Dalles, Ore., hit 48°C at 4pm Pacific; Portland hit 46°C, the same as Palm Springs, Calif.; and even Lytton, B.C., reports 46°C right now—the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. All of those figures exceed yesterday's forecast and broke all-time records set just yesterday.
It's bonkers. And it won't be the last time this happens.
Here in Chicago we have a perfectly reasonable 26°C. I'll keep it.
Portland, Ore., hit an all-time high temperature of 43°C yesterday, with a forecast of 45°C today:
The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for much of Oregon and Washington with historic highs -- and historic lows -- forecast across the region. Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the warning took effect as a massive ridge of high pressure encompasses the Pacific Northwest, leading to triple digits all weekend and through Monday.
By 4 p.m. Saturday, the temperature at the Portland International Airport reached 103 degrees, according to the NWS. This not only broke the previous high-temperature record for this day (which was set at 102 degrees back in 2006), but also broke the record for the month of June.
An hour later, Portland hit 107 degrees, tying the all-time record high that has only been felt three times in recorded history from 1965 to 1981.
But the heat didn't stop there. Notching up one more degree, Portland set a new record for the hottest day.
During this heatwave, the Portland metro area and the Willamette Valley can expect to see anywhere from 105 to 110 degrees, with the hottest day likely being Sunday, where the afternoon high in Portland is 110.
Seattle also had ludicrous heat. And the excessive drought covering 26% of the Western states doesn't help, as it has encouraged a persistent high-pressure area over the region that keeps it hot and dry.
But nope, no climate change! Move along!
The Lake Michigan-Huron system's water level has fallen for 12 straight months. But not a lot:
So even though water levels have fallen 50 cm or so, they're still 40 cm higher than the long-term average. With much of the lake basin in serious drought, the water should keep draining out the Detroit River for a while longer.
Yesterday I squashed six bugs (one of them incidentally to another) and today I've had a couple of good strategy meetings. But things seem to have picked up a bit, now that our customers and potential customers have returned to their offices as well.
So I haven't had time to read all of these (a consistent theme on this blog):
And finally, providing some almost-pure Daily Parker bait, the Post has a helpful breakdown of 8 common styles of hot sauce.
After taking Cassie on a 45-minute walk before the heat hits us, I've spent the morning debugging, watching these news stories pile up for lunchtime reading:
- The US Supreme Court once again upheld Obamacare, with only Alito and Gorsuch dissenting.
- The Illinois legislature passed a common-sense gun control law, supported by the State Police, that largely brings us back in line with the rules we had in the 1990s.
- Illinois Deputy Governor Dan Hynes has resigned (ahem) ahead of the 2022 election.
- The BBC fact-checks this week's Iranian elections.
- Dana Milbank fact-checks Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has started repeating Republican Party lies about BLM and our election. Writing in the Atlantic, Anna Nemtsova says Putin has nothing to offer the West because he has dropped all pretense of liberalism.
- National Geographic has a photo essay of 20 natural wonders that disappeared in the past few years.
- After the warmest first half of June in history, Northeastern Illinois (i.e., Chicago) is in a severe drought that tonight's thunderstorms won't actually help. But Illinois has nothing on the southwestern US, which has it far, far worse, including forecast 50°C temperatures over large areas of Arizona and California.
Finally, Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has revealed conceptual drawings for a moon base.
Many of the top contenders for the bottom position on the US House of Representative's intellectual achievement league table have only recently joined the august body. First-term representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a high-school dropout, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have backed up their sterling educational credentials with solid records of stupidity. Of course, US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) would win by two lengths if he served in the House instead of the Senate. Fortunately, the House has Jim Jordan (R-OH) to represent the same demographic (stereotypical meathead football coaches with neolithic political views).
Yesterday, however, Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a perennial contender and multiple-year winner of the award, lowered the bar dramatically with a truly remarkable idea he shared with the House Natural Resources Committee and an associate deputy chief of the US Forest Service:
"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."
Eberlien responded, smiling, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."
"If you figure out there's a way in the Forest Service you could make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) helpfully provided an answer for his astronomy-challenged colleague:
Gohmert, now in his 7th term in Congress, faces no significant challenger in 2022. And with this, he may not face a serious challenge to his title of Dumbest in Congress for the 13th year running.
As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:
- After 448 days, Illinois will finally reopen fully on Friday.
- Security expert Tarah Wheeler, writing on Schneier.com, warns that our weapons systems have frightening security vulnerabilities.
- Fastly's content-delivery network (CDN) collapsed this morning, taking down The New York Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg News, and other major properties; no word yet on the cause, but we can guess.
- About 12,000 volunteer software developers around the world contributed to the Mars Helicopter project through GitHub.
- Josh Marshall looks at the burn-it-all-down ethos of defeated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our own XPOTUS.
- Alexandra Petri wonders why anyone would buy a Swiss Army knife when an AR-15 does the job better?
- ProPublica divided income tax by (unrealized) wealth growth and found that the wealthiest 25 Americans paid almost no income tax from 2014 to 2018; however, they did not apply that methodology to the millions of middle-class families whose 401(k) funds appreciated, which would show that most people paid smaller percentages than they thought.
- Earth's CO2 levels have reached 419 ppm, a level not seen since around the time humans and chimpanzees split from their last common ancestor.
Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.