Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Drought, heat wave, and other reported weather phenomena

Cows and calves grazing in the cool morning air.

Quite an interesting day today, even if nothing Earth-shattering happened.

As the sun came up this morning the cows and calves were enjoying fresh tall (ish) grass on a cool and mostly cloudy morning. The weather guessers predicted 96 and sunny with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. For the most part it stayed cloudy and calm, so while it did touch 93 for a few minutes there was no pressure from a blazing sun, which made it seem relatively less hot.

This morning the littles and I took an hour or so to swing and catch bugs. The six year old is very excited about the rapidly approaching school year. He'll be a big first-grader. The little one will be going to pre-K, and she's both excited and apprehensive. But thanks to some of the kind neighborhood girls she's spent time this summer learning how to meet and play with other kids. It's a big step!

When the thunderstorms rolled in after lunch I decided to give up working on the four-line lightning conduit. I dove into some writing instead and have much of part two of "what the firetruck's wrong with my leg" whipped into shape. I hit an editing logjam and decided to go in a different direction, resulting in this post, such as it is.


Ya know, reported reality isn't the same as real reality.

When it comes to summertime weather reporting, the print and broadcast and electronic media headlines are filled with doom and gloom. Record high temperatures! Record low rainfall! Killing drought! Crop failure! Wildfires everywhere, thousands of homes burned! And on and on.

So how does the reported reality match up with real reality?

Not very well.

Sure, specifics are often more or less correct. But when the focus is on bad stuff only, you run into the soda straw effect. When you rely only on media reports to tell you what reality looks like, you are essentially looking through a soda straw. What you can see you can see fine, but that’s only a tiny and constrained field of view. You see a tiny pinpoint very well, but you see nothing else, and what you don’t see is vastly bigger than what you see through the soda straw. If you fall into the trap of believing that you are well informed via the soda straw, you are actually extremely poorly informed. You begin to think that reported reality represents all or nearly all of reality.

That’s a dangerous place to be.

So how terrible was July? Let’s look at Kimball, which is a fair representation of our tri-state region. And of course the place I have data for and easily to hand.

It was warm. That shouldn't come as a surprise. July is known for being warm in this part of the world. In the first three weeks, 16 days topped 90 degrees. There were also two days of triple digits with both days hitting 101. As usual, the nights were relatively cool during that three week period. Fifteen of those were in the 50's, and all of them were below 70. It’s one of the nice features of this High Plains region; we generally have cool summer nights.

Over the first three weeks of July the average high temp at Kimball was 92.36; the average low 58.54, and the daily mean temperature 75.45. The 129-year averages at Kimball for July are 87, 56, and 71.5, respectively. It’s fair to say that those first three weeks were warmer than average. However, the month has four weeks and change -- 31 days in all. So what did the final 10 days look like?

Over the July 22-31 period, the average high was 84.12, the average low 58.5, and the daily mean temperature was 71.31 degrees. The high was almost three degrees below average, the low was about two degrees above average, and the mean was, unsurprisingly, about two-tenths of a degree cooler than average.

With the entire month behind us now, what did the July, 2022 temperatures look like in the record book? The daily high averaged 90.09, or just over three degrees above average. The daily low was 2.64 degrees above average at 58.64. The daily mean temperature averaged 74.37, about two-and-a-half degrees above average.

So was July warm? It sure was. Was it record warm or even exceptionally warm? Not really. Over the last 129 years the warmest average daily high was 95.9 degrees in 1934. The coolest average daily high was 80.8 degrees in 1906. The warmest average overnight low was 62.5 degrees in 1936. The coolest average overnight low was 52.1 degrees in 1924. The warmest average daily mean temperature was 78.7 degrees in 1936. The coolest average daily mean temperature was 67.1 degrees in 1906.

With history as our guide the July 2022 averages were pretty close to average.

Hottest July day at Kimball? 110 degrees in 1934. Coolest July day at Kimball? 53 degrees in 1895. Coolest July low? 37 degrees in 1952. Warmest July low? 73 degrees in 1936.

Let’s not forget widespread reporting about how terribly dry it was this July. At Kimball precipitation for the month measured 3.03 inches, almost a half-inch above the long term average. How dry can a dry July be at Kimball? Over the last 129 years the lowest July precipitation total was a mere 0.18 inches in 1920. The wettest July over that period came in 1998 when 7.28 inches of rain fell. Measurable precipitation on 15 of 31 days! Imagine that!

None of this is intended to accuse the various media outlets of wrongdoing. The point is that you can’t get enough objective information to be well informed by spending a few moments with a television or a newspaper or on the interwebs. You have to do the work to be informed.

And let’s remember that weather statistics are based on single location measurements. The world is a big place, and weather information is gathered from only a very few locations. The information we get from them help us understand general trends and conditions, but they don’t tell us anything about what happens in the rest of reality. Rainfall measured at the local airport is not the same thing as the rain that fell (or didn’t fall) in a field or pasture. Reported weather figures give us an idea of what’s going on in the area, but the important information is what nature is doing in all the vastness of her real reality.

So what does all this mean about July, 2022? Simply that it was July on the High Plains.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Read somewhere that they could have weather monitoring apps on phones, which would give a large sized look at any area. Perhaps too much accuracy would disturb the prattling of the chicken littles :)

    1. Conceptually interesting, yet I doubt app designers would allow non-narrative data.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Frank!

  2. The La Niña/El Nino Pacific water temperatures seem to have a major impact on our weather. The La Nina seems to be weakening but not yet into El Nino.

    1. Weather is so incredibly complex. The correlations between North American weather and what happens in the far away equatorial Pacific are fascinating. You could say that our weather is born there. But where then is the equatorial Pacific's weather born? Fun to think about.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Frank!