This past week's weather-related events has provided a preview of what may become a normal state of affairs in U.S. cities--all-time record-high temperatures combined with power blackouts of all flavors, large-scale, localized or rolling.
January through June has already been declared the hottest ever recorded in US history, about 3.4 degrees above normal twentieth century average temperatures.
Then there's the impact natural forces have had on the power grid. St. Louis, which got hit by an intense thunderstorm last week, still has more than 200,000 people without power who have been suffering through 90 and 100 degree weather. The Bronx had tens of thousands without power for about a week, with a few thousand there entering their second week without juice in record heat.
Meanwhile, we're in sweltering San Francisco. People are preparing for rolling power blackouts today with record electricity consumption for the state of California set to shatter Friday's record consumption. Hopefully I can get this post up in time before a blackout occurs.
My town in Marin County--San Anselmo, CA--set an all-time record for the hottest day ever on Saturday, when temperatures reached 112 degrees at the Red Hill measuring location. While this might not top Phoenix's 118-degree high Saturday and yesterday's all-time record high in Stockton, California of 115 degrees, consider that San Anselmo is only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, which is about 60-degrees right now.
Weather forecasters in the normally foggy Bay Area say they have never seen the likes of this heat wave, which put the SF Airport at 97 on Saturday. July and August are typically foggy in SF, with 55-75 degree highs. It seems that high pressure is making this heat rise up to 15,000 feet allowing it to build on the ground level and keep the cooler coastal air stalled out over the Pacific.
This is typically the hot season for inland areas, but such heat this many consecutive days is unprecedented with records being set throughout the region over the past four days and today.
It's not just me that thinks this is a sign of things to come--normally cool and foggy Sausalito has become a balmy night-time outdoor cafe and dining hang-out this summer, for the first time ever. The tourists are pleased, but locals are a bit weirded out by it.
What can cities do? They need to step up energy-conserving green building and city energy efficiency policies, develop green rooftops (which save energy and may reduce urban heat island effect), advocate much more renewable energy for the grid, like California's utilities did after the 2001 Enron blackouts, and reduce their carbon output, as global warming is no longer a theory to be discussed.
It's hit our streets, and we need to recognize that and try to reduce its impacts, individually and collectively.
This can be the beginning of a new era. Which era will it be? One with incredible new domestic economic opportunity, collaboration, applied science and technology, or one of paralyzed indecision, finger pointing and tragic indifference?