Archived Story

Unpleasant heat is on earlier than normal

Published 11:04am Friday, June 29, 2012

Woke up thinking about a funny column related to this week’s heat wave, but decided there’s nothing funny about it.

I was just getting ready to head over to a youth baseball game Wednesday night when our 10-year-old called to say it had been canceled. Because we’re at a sporting event or some other activity every night of the week, one would think that a night off would be welcome, but it was a disappointment.

For some reason, snow day cancellations are fun and exciting. Heat cancellations are just irritating.

With all that baseball energy untapped, we ventured outside after supper, despite the heat, to shoot a few baskets. Thirty minutes later, we were back inside literally dripping from the minor exertion.

Inside, the air conditioning was roaring away. Like many older homes, ours was built with a radiator-type heating system and later retrofitted with air conditioning. During cold winter months, the house is relatively efficient. Not so in the summer.

Because there is no ductwork under the floor or in the walls, the air conditioning system pushes air through flex ducts in the attic. While that was probably a convenient place for the installation, it sure doesn’t make much sense to run cool air through flimsy ducts in the hottest part of the house.

So I spent half an hour kicking myself because the annual resolution to Do Something about the air conditioning’s efficiency never seems to get done.

It is little consolation that Austin and the rest of Minnesota are merely catching part of a giant heat wave that is plaguing most of the nation. While it’s true we aren’t supposed to get the 100-plus temperatures that they’re having further south, it’s bad enough it was 81 degrees by 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

When I went out to gather in the kids’ pool towels, which we usually hang on the line to dry overnight, they were still wet — a reminder that overnight humidity was near the 90 percent mark.

That high humidity is one of the hallmarks of ongoing climate change, one of the big contributors to increasing average temperatures.

Traditionally, Minnesotans could open up their windows in the evening and let cool night air wash out the day’s heat, creating at least a few hours of relatively cool and comfortable temperatures without much need for expensive air conditioning.

When the humidity stays high, however, nighttime air holds its heat and certainly does not feel very refreshing.

So the air conditioning runs day and night during warm spells — and it isn’t even July yet.

Austin’s 95-degree high on Wednesday fell short of setting a record but that hasn’t been the case elsewhere.

Nationwide, the Associated Press reported, somewhere more than 1,000 daily high temperature records have already been broken this summer. That news is both less and more impressive than it may sound. Daily records have only been tracked officially for a few years, so they’re bound to fall quickly. On the other hand, it’s only June and records are already falling. That does not bode well for the rest of the summer.


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