Following up on last week, Ask the Pilot weighs in on exactly why the heat in Phoenix is grounding airplanes:
Extreme heat affects planes in a few different ways. First, there are aerodynamic repercussions. Hotter air is less dense than cooler air, so a wing produces less lift. This is compounded by reduced engine output. Jet engines don’t like low-density air either, and don’t perform as well in hot weather. Together, this means higher takeoff and landing speeds — which, in turn, increases the amount of required runway. Rates of climb are also impeded. Performance parameters require that a plane be able to climb away safely following an engine failure, and this might not be possible. Engines also are subject to internal temperature limits — exhaust gas temps, etc. — beyond which operation isn’t permitted. When it’s really hot outside these limits are easier to exceed.
Then you’ve got the simpler, more tangible effects: overheating electronics, increased brake temperatures, cabin cooling issues, and so on. Airplanes have a lot of internal machinery, and much of it runs hot to begin with. Throw in triple-digit temperatures, and things begin to break down. And let’s not forget the effects on ground support equipment and, of course, the people working outside.
It's currently a balmy 39°C in Phoenix. That's almost tolerable, with enough air conditioning.
Phoenix hit a record high temperature yesterday of 48°C, and it's already that hot again today. And right now, it's 50°C in Needles, Calif. In fact, it's too hot for airplanes to take off:
As the Capital Weather Gang reported, the Southwest is experiencing its worst heat wave in decades. Excessive heat warnings have been in effect from Arizona to California and will be for the remainder of the week.
And it was so hot that dozens of flights have been canceled this week at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
American Airlines alerted its customers over the weekend, offering fee-free changes to upcoming flights that were departing or arriving at Phoenix between 3 and 6 p.m., when temperatures peak.
Regional flights on American Eagle were the most affected, because they use Bombardier CRJ planes that can only operate at temperatures of 48°C or below, Feinstein said. Flights on larger Airbus and Boeing planes were not canceled because they are able to operate at higher maximum temperatures: 52.7°C for Airbus and 52.2°C for Boeing.
Meanwhile, a cold front has come through Chicago, dropping the temperature to 18°C at O'Hare around 2pm. And I'm about to walk home in it.
Stuff I didn't get to because I was doing my job today:
Time for a martini, clearly.
Things to read today:
And finally, the Chicago Tribune has an article on our concert this weekend, and composer Jeff Beal performing in it:
"I suppose it might have been DNA asserting itself," said Beal, who will be in Chicago May 5 and Evanston May 7 when the celebrated Apollo Chorus includes his "The Salvage Men" and "Poor in Spirit" as part of their 145th-season-ending spring concert, "American Masters," in Chicago and Evanston. "It's true that [my grandmother] passed on her love of improvisation, but there's also something almost eerily similar about what she did, watching a screen and creating her own musical accompaniment, and what I do in my day job."
[H]e had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Though he took seven years to process the news before beginning to write "The Salvage Men" in 2014.
Serendipitously, that was about the time that Apollo Chorus music director Stephen Alltop, who studied with Beal at Eastman, got back in touch to praise Beal's work on" House of Cards" and suggest the possibility of doing a concert together. Which explains why Beal and his new choral works are appearing in Chicago directly after their debuts in London and Los Angeles. Beal also will perform solo trumpet over the comparatively simple text of his "Poor in Spirit," — it consists entirely of one repeated phrase from the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit" — much as he often plays trumpet over the score of "House of Cards."
Tickets are available through the Apollo Chorus website. It's going to be an amazing concert.
The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced this week that the atmosphere passed 410 ppm of carbon dioxide and is heading for a monthly average of 407 ppm, the highest values observed on earth in millions of years:
Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two yearsdue to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.
“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”
Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.
Too bad all that data isn't persuasive enough for some people. I guess the planet just needs better P.R.
A little busy today, so I'm putting these down for later consumption:
Now, I must prepare...for Whisky Fest!
The National Climate Prediction Center has released a batch of forecasts. Right now they're predicting increased chances of warm weather for Chicago through November:
The heart of summer shows Illinois with an increased chance of above-normal temperatures. But more interesting is that they have introduced a region of below-normal precipitation in the southern half of Illinois. The combination of warmer and drier than normal conditions during that time of year could lead to drought.
Right now it's a normal March day, and nearly all the snow from Tuesday is gone.
It's official: for the first time in recorded history, Chicago had no snow on the ground during the last two months of meterological winter (January and February):
Because the snow measurement is taken at 6 a.m. at O'Hare International Airport, small amounts of snow that may have fallen later in the day and melted were not recorded, said Amy Seeley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. This occurred Feb. 25 when there was a trace of snow and Jan. 30 when there was 2 mm. The weather service has been keeping data on snow on the ground for 146 years.
WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling said he believes the 146-year streak in Chicago is part of climate change and emphasized that it does not occur linearly, meaning that there is potential for cold winters in the future.
And Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel officially declared February the warmest-ever:
All those days with 60- and 70-degree [Fahrenheit] weather paid off – this February was the warmest February on record for Illinois. The statewide average temperature for February was 4.7°C, 5.3°C above normal. It beat the old record of 4.4°C set back in 1998.
Yes. This is climate change. I've long predicted Chicago would benefit, even though on balance the world won't.
With tomorrow's forecast 16°C temperatures, Chicago will end meterological winter having had just a trace of snow in February and less than half our usual amount of snow since the season began December 1st. Since records began in 1884, only five other winter months have had so little snow. We also could have the third-warmest February in history with an average temperature of 3.4°C—just 0.4°C cooler than the record set in February 1882.
Of course, we could get snow in March. Best not to think about that right now.