20 Years of Hot Cars and Tragedies

Today, July 24th, marks the bittersweet 20th anniversary of my involvement with Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH).  On that sunny 86° summer afternoon in 2001, I got a call from a reporter telling me about the death of a 5-month-old boy inside a hot car in San Jose and asking, “How hot could it have gotten in that car?”.  And so began my 20-year journey of measuring how hot cars get and the tracking of the tragic deaths of children in hot vehicles.

In trying to find the answer to the reporter’s query, I found only a single article and it was for a single 93-degree day in Louisiana. But my scientific curiosity was piqued and during that summer I started tracking temperatures inside vehicles. I was startled at not only how hot it could get but also how rapidly the temperature rose in the car.

The following summer, I did a controlled study where I sampled temperatures in cars over 16 days that ranged in temperature from 72° to 96°.  I was also working on another project with the Stanford University Hospital Emergency Medicine Department and became acquainted with Dr. Catherine McLaren and Dr. James Quinn. They became my co-authors for the article “Heat Stress from Enclosed Vehicles: Moderate Ambient Temperatures Cause Significant Temperature Rise in Enclosed Vehicles”.  This article was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005 and became the “go-to” article on the topic and has been referenced worldwide.

The article also led to my working with numerous child car safety groups and other organizations, and ultimately to my tracking the instances and circumstances that led to the deaths of children in hot cars. A dedicated website, NoHeatstroke.org was created to give easy access to this research and timely updates when there were PVH tragedies. Through the years, I have spoken at dozens of national conferences, given countless webinars and literally hundreds of interviews to increase awareness and share ideas on
preventing deaths of children in hot cars.

This 20-year milestone is important to acknowledge the children that have died and to continue to raise awareness about children dying in hot cars. If even one child is saved from being left in a hot car, it is more than worth the years of researching these tragic and unnecessary deaths.

 

Sincerely,
Jan


Jan Null, CCM
Adjunct Professor of Meteorology
San Jose State University
Email: jan.null@sjsu.edu  
Web: https://noheatstroke.org 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ggweather
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noheatstroke/

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Driest California Average Rainfall on Record

  

The just ended California rainfall season has ended with the driest average statewide rainfall in the 126 seasons on record going back to 1895. And the 2-season average is the second driest with just 60% of normal. Similarly, half of California's 10 hydrologic regions saw their driest on record for the 2020-2021 season. The two-season numbers were only slightly better, primarily in the southern half of the state. [Data Source: Western Region Climate Center (https://wrcc.dri.edu/)]





 






Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Phone: (650) 712-1876
Email: jnull@ggweather.com
Web: http://ggweather.com
Twitter: @ggweather
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2020-2021 Rainfall Season Recap and Historical Context


 

Wednesday will mark the end of what has been a dismally dry 2020-2021 rainfall season across California with many stations logging one of their top ten driest seasons on record. And even more significant are some of the two-season totals which are also among the driest, especially in the critical watersheds represented by the Sierra Nevada Indices. And most troubling in terms of the Sierra Nevada are extremely dry three and four-year totals.


Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Email: jnull@ggweather.com
Web: http://ggweather.com
Twitter: @ggweather
 








 

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A Drier California Seen in New Normals


 

The differences in the new (1991-2020) rainfall normals in California show a noticeably drier state when compared to the previous period (1981-2010). On average, precipitation for stations in Northern California decreased by 8%, while Central and Southern California stations decreased by 6% and 12% respectively. On a slightly brighter note, in the Northern Sierra Nevada, there was essentially no change, but the Central and Southern Sierra normals fell by 3% and 5%.

 



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The (Not So) Elusive Green Flash

 

As a meteorologist, I have long been aware of the Green Flash and would always try see it when I watched the sunset over the ocean. But I never did; and most of the colleagues and friends that I speak to haven’t either! That has all changed since moving to the coast about a year ago. Now that I frequently photograph sunsets, I probably capture it at least 50% of the time! So, what has changed?   

The biggest difference is that I switched from trying to “see” the Green Flash to photographing it! When most people are trying to see it, they are staring into a bright yellow-orange-red ball, and in doing so their irises dilate down to the size of pinheads and their color vision is degraded; making it almost impossible to ever see the green flash with the naked eye.

There are actually two different basic types of Green Flash.  The first occurs as a relatively bright flash of an emerald-green color right after the upper disk of the sun has dipped below the horizon. This “classic” type is the one most often seen when a person has not been watching the bright sun during the setting process. It’s the result of warm air overlying the colder ocean and the effects of an inferior-mirage display of the sun and the actual disk of the sun interacting. (For a great technical explanation see https://www.atoptics.co.uk/atoptics/gfimform.htm).



The second variety of Green Flash appears as a small detached element of green light above the disk of the sun. During the course of the sun setting, there are often multiple occurrences of these “green wiggles” of light. This type of flash happens when there is a temperature inversion (i.e., cooler air near the surface and warmer aloft) resulting in a mock-mirage. (See https://www.atoptics.co.uk/atoptics/gfmmform.htm)
 


And as I found out recently, bright light from the full moon can also be the source of a Lunar Green Flash! The image below was taken November 2020 as the full moon set next to Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the San Mateo County, CA, coast. And it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the image on a monitor that I noticed the tiny wiggle of a rare Lunar Green Flash.
 

For a deeper dive into the topic check out what I consider the two definitive resources that I have found on the topic. The first is Les Cowley’s Atmospheric Optics pages (https://www.atoptics.co.uk/), which is a great go-to source for not only the Green Flash, but also Rainbows, Halos, Rays and dozens of other visual phenomena. The second is Andrew Young’s Green Flash pages (https://aty.sdsu.edu/). Enjoy and happy Green Flash hunting.

Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Email: jnull@ggweather.com
Web: http://ggweather.com
Twitter: @ggweather

 

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California Rainfall Update

 

The rainfall for the bulk of the last two seasons is now the second driest in 170 years of record for San Francisco. The 21-month total rainfall for the period from July 1, 2019 through March 31, 2021 is just  20.46". This is 45% of the normal rainfall for that period; a deficit of 24.52", which is more than one full rainfall season's total of 23.65".  The only drier period was 1975-77 with a total of 18.53".




California Percent of Normal Rainfall (July 1 to March 31, 2021)


Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Email: jnull@ggweather.com
Web: http://ggweather.com
Twitter: @ggweather

 

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California Drought Update and Comparison


With more and more questions along the lines of "Are we in a drought", below are several images from the Drought Monitor, today and historically. The first map is the latest issuance. followed by the map from the first week of January, The only significant difference is across a swath from the Big Sur Coast to Lake Tahoe which shifted down a category as a result of the Atmospheric River the last week of January.

More significant is the difference between today's Drought Monitor, after 2 dry years, and that from March 2013, in the 2nd year of what was to be a 4-year drought. In 2013, much of California was still "abnormally dry" (~50%) while today in 2021 it's less than 10%, with the remainder defined as drought. 

But for context, it's important to recognize that drought is more than just the amount of rainfall; and that it impacts different segments of the state's population and economy differently.  See Defining Drought...It's Not Just the Rainfall.

Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Email: jnull@ggweather.com
Web: http://ggweather.com
Twitter: @ggweather


 






 

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New California Rainfall Normals Show a Downward Trend

 

Every decade, the 30-year normals that are the de facto climatological standard, are recalculated. Sometime within the next six months, an update from the 1981-2010 normals to the 1991-2020 normals will be published by NOAA and other agencies around the world. [See https://ggweather.posthaven.com/what-do-meteorologists-mean-by-normal]
 
Until that date, below are close approximations of what those values will look like for a number of key stations around California, along with their historical normals through each station’s period of record.  It is interesting to note that over the past decade, all the California stations, except Eureka, shows a drop in their 30-year normals, averaging approximately 5%.
 
This shift was largely the result of the drought years across much of the state from 2011 to 2015 that pushed values downward. For example, the San Francisco average rainfall for the last decade (2011-2020) was 20.22”, replacing the average for 1981-1990 which had been 22.39”. The intervening decades of 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 had averages of 25.25” and 23.16” respectively.

Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
jnull@ggweather.com
https://ggweather.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ggweather
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Golden-Gate-Weather-Services-151100414926621/

 

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Groundhog Day: More than a Furry Rodent or Repetitious Movie


This morning it has been reported that Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow and thus the "forecast" is for six more weeks of winter.

Groundhog Day has its roots in an ancient Celtic celebration called Imbolog. This date is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In an agrarian society that was very dependent on the weather, this was a time to celebrate having made it halfway through winter. The superstition arose that if the weather was fair on Imbolog, the second half of the winter would be cold and stormy, but if the weather was cold and overcast or stormy, the second half of the winter would be mild.

In Christian times, February 2nd was also celebrated as Candlemas, but the earlier Imbolog superstition continued. In Scotland they said, ``If Candlemas be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year'' and in England, they said, ``If Candlemas be sunny and warm, ye may mend your mittens and look for a storm.''

The Romans learned of this tradition from the Celts, and eventually brought it with them to the area that would later become Germany. Eventually, when German immigrants came to North America they brought these beliefs to Pennsylvania. Their tradition of predicting the weather became centered on the woodchuck or groundhog, and if he could see his shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter.

A newspaper in Punxsutawney, PA helped keep the tradition alive and in 1887 declared Phil as America’s official forecasting groundhog. As the story became embellished each year the other newspapers picked it up and the rest as they say is history. Regionally there have been a number of other furry rodent contenders such as General Beauregard Lee of Atlanta, Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, NC, and Jimmy of Sun Prairie, WI.  And in 1993 the motion picture "Groundhog Day" popularized the event even further.

NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information has summarized this tradition and its associated climatology at: https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/groundhog-day-forecasts-and-climate-history.
Additional information can be found at http://www.groundhog.org/.


Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
jnull@ggweather.com   
http://ggweather.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ggweather
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Golden-Gate-Weather-Services-151100414926621/

 
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