“Hot enough for ya?” Back in the day, folks around here pretty much took changing weather in their stride. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. The Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, changing seasons was just a fact of life.
Nowadays, we all expect to have our favorite television programs interrupted periodically, with doomsday messages streaming across the bottom of the screen, announcing that a “storm system” had appeared on the Doppler radar, just west of Lickskillet. Grab the young’uns and head for the root cellar, Maw, she’s gonna blow!
Weather reporting—once the province of the Farmer’s Almanac and Uncle Herbie’s trick knee—is now big news. And, like news reporting itself, weather news reporting has devolved into a competitive blood sport; the nastier and more horrific the better. “Tsunami threatens Fairdale, film at 11.”
If you paid any attention to the hyperbole regurgitated in the local media last week, you probably think Kentucky in general, and Louisville in particular, just suffered through one of the worst heat waves in recorded history. Weathercasters have adopted the habit of using scary graphics to inform viewers of the “heat index,” instead of just talking about the temperature and the humidity. It’s always a little humid in Louisville (we live next to a river), so when you have a moderately hot temperature—of, say, 90 degrees Fahrenheit—you can add in the humidity and end up with a heat index sufficient to cook a frozen pizza.
On the morning of July 24, WAVE-TV’s Accuweather  reported: “The big story this week across much of the nation was the heat. All-time record high temperatures fell as blazing sunshine made the mercury climb into the triple-digits.”
And, grasping for and missing a suitable metaphor, the Courier-Journal  breathtakingly reprinted this, from USA Today: “The urban Northeast baked like a potato wrapped in foil Friday as record-breaking, 100-degree temperatures and steambath humidity combined with the heat-trapping effects of asphalt and concrete to make millions of people miserable.”
Makes you get all flushed and swoony just reading that stuff, doesn’t it? But the truth is, there were very few high-temperature records broken in the U.S. last week; and none were broken in Kentucky. According to National Climatic Data Center, there were no temperature records broken on July 17, July 18, July 19, or July 20th. A total of 4 stations broke records on July 21, 20 on July 22, and 10 on July 23, 2011.
Out of over 6000 records previously set for each day since the government started keeping track of the weather, there were only 34 new all-time-high daily temperature records set during last week's "record-breaking heat."
But if you do a Google search of "record-breaking heat July 2011," you’ll get about 35 million hits. That’s about a million stories for each temperature record broken (we do the math, so you won’t have to). Al Gore would be proud.
Here in Kentucky, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center web site  reveals the following startling statistics:
KY All-Time Highest Max Temperature Records Set:
- July 17, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 18, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 19, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 20, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 21, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 22, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
- July 23, 2011: 0 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 0 Total
Sure, it was hot last week here in River City. We call it “summertime.”