Category Archives: Environment

Steamy July: Maybe a Record Month for Heat After All

by Categorized: Data, Environment, Science Date:

In our last post, we celebrated the end of a week-long heatwave by noting that as brutal as July 2013 has been, it was certain to fall short as a record-breaking month as measured by either average high temperatures or by the number of days – or days in a row – that the thermometer topped 90.

But as astute readers pointed out, the maximum daily temperature is not the only way to gauge heat, and this month has been noteworthy for steamy nights that seemed to hold onto oppressive temps long after the sun was down. Climatologists, in fact, frequently measure the hotness of a period by looking at the average daily temperature; not a true weighted average evaluating the temperature at multiple points throughout the day, but simply by taking the mid-point between the daily high and the daily low.

And when July’s numbers are crunched in that fashion – well, let’s just say that those of you with central air conditioning may be in for a shock when your next electric bill arrives.

So far this month, the midpoint between high and low temperatures in Hartford has averaged 81.2 degrees. That tops every July going back at least to 1920, just as this month’s average high temperature – 89.1 degrees – is unmatched.

But while moderating temperatures for the rest of the month are certain to knock out July 2013’s chances of having the hottest high temperatures since at least 1920, the month is likely to retain its distinction as having the hottest average temperature on record.

For the full month of July, the highest average temperature since 1920 was 78.8 degrees, set in 2010. That’s more than 3 degrees lower than this month’s average temperature to date, and it would take some unusually cool weather over the next nine days for July 2013 to lose the top spot in average temperature.

As long as average temperatures hit at least 73.1 degrees for the rest of the July (as they have every day for a month), July 2013 will top every other month since at least 1920 in average daytime and nighttime temperatures.

So by that measure, one for the record books after all.

July’s Heat – A Rarity, But Not a Record

by Categorized: Data, Environment, Science Date:

The thermometer maxed out at a comparatively chilly 87 degrees in Hartford Sunday, meaning the region’s stifling, week-long heatwave is officially one for the history books.

But it’s not one for the record books.

cokethermometerBy almost every measure, Hartford has endured worse than the seven-day roasting that began with July 14th’s 92-degree day. Seven straight days of 90-degree weather is highly unusual for the region. But record-breaking? Not even close.

Including the heatwave that concluded Saturday, Hartford has recorded at least 10 week-long stretches of 90-plus temperatures since 1920 – the earliest year for which electronic data is available. And in six of those events, the hot weather extended at least to an eighth day, including – how quickly we forget – an eight-day stretch just two summers ago.

In 1973 and again in 2002, Hartford sweltered during nine-day stretches of 90-degree heat. And while data for much of 1995 is unavailable for Hartford, the weather station at Bradley International Airport recorded a ten-day stretch of 90-plus weather that year.

This recent heatwave began less than a week after a previous run of hot weather, a five-day stretch of temperatures topping 90 than began July 4th. That means there have been more 90-degree days than not this month, a rarity – but again, not a record.

So far there have been 12 days above 90 this month, but we’re not likely to add more than one or two additional super-hot days – and probably won’t add any – through the end of the month. So we’re certain to lag behind July 2010’s 16 days of 90-degree heat, and the 15 days in July of 2011 and 1999.

July 2013 does cling to one record, though it will be temporary. Through Sunday, the average daily high temperature for the month was 89.4 degrees. That’s higher than any July in the past 93 years for which data is available. But that top spot won’t last.

With moderating temperatures forecast for the rest of the month, July 2013 will likely end up as one of the five or ten hottest on record, but still less steamy than the Julys of 2010 and 2011. (And July 1999 will likely retain its title as the hottest month on record, with an average high of 89.2 degrees.)

While this particular blazing stretch may not medal in the heat Olympics, it does appear to be part of a larger trend of unparalleled high temperatures. Over the past 10 years, the average high temperature in July  – the hottest month of the year – was about 85.5 degrees, nearly a full degree higher than the next-hottest 10-year stretch going back eight decades.

And that’s a record that could well leave those concerned about global warming breaking out in a sweat.

Connecticut Beaches Get Crummy Marks for 2011 Water Quality

by Categorized: Data, Environment, Health, Science Date:

As my colleague Josh Kovner reports, the Natural Resources Defense Council has ranked Connecticut the 26th worst state for water quality out of 30 states tested in 2011. The culprit: heavy rain and wind from Tropical Storm Irene, which churned up contaminants and led to a four-fold increase in beach-closing days.

Below is a database of the council’s main findings for each of the 73 beaches that line Connecticut’s Long Island Sound coastline. Click the arrows to sort a column or to filter for a particular name.

Click the map below the database to access the council’s page with more information on Connecticut beaches.

New Haven to Occupiers: Stop Destroying the Environment!

by Categorized: Environment, Legal Affairs, Politics, Poverty, Public Safety Date:

In court battles, there are the legal skirmishes, and then there are the somewhat extra-judicial appeals to emotion and senses of fair play. Lawyers for New Haven — headed to court tomorrow for Round 2 in their efforts to boot the Occupy New Haven protesters off the Green — are trying both approaches.

In more than 100 pages of freshly filed court papers, the city makes it case that it has the legal authority to shut down the tent city and that its regulations are narrowly tailored and content-neutral. But beyond the legalese, the filings also includes affidavits from city employees bemoaning the environmental damage they say Occupy New Haven has caused. Continue reading

Connecticut Gas Prices: Could Be Better; Could Be Worse

by Categorized: Data, Environment, Finance Date:

Connecticut Historical Gas Price Charts Provided by


As the legislature debates steps to dial down the state’s high gas prices, this chart from shows how much more Connecticut drivers are paying than the average motorist around the country — and also how much less they pay than some drivers.

For most of the last year, gas prices in Connecticut were consistently 20 to 30 cents a gallon more than the national average. But for the last couple weeks, Connecticut’s prices have been a veritable bargain compared to San Francisco, which has some of the highest pump prices in the nation.

California and Connecticut each add 67 cents in taxes to the price of a gallon of gas, and prices in Connecticut and San Francisco historically have been fairly close.  But a steep run-up in prices in the Bay Area recently has pushed the cost of a gallon of gas in San Francisco about 40 cents higher than in Connecticut.

While sticker shock at the pump tends to get the attention of motorists and politicians alike, the financial impact of Connecticut’s gap with the rest of the nation may not be as great as many think. Using federal figures from 2007, the average motorists puts 11,720 miles on a vehicle that gets 20.4 miles per gallon. That translates to about 575 gallons of gas a year. A 20- the 30-cent gap with the rest of the nation means a typical motorist in Connecticut is spending an extra $115 to $172 a year on fuel.

Avoiding road rage is a little tougher, however, when looking at historical price trends for the state. An average gallon of gas in Connecticut this week costs a hair over $4, according to GasBuddy. That’s double what it was three years ago this week.

You Paid for the Research. But Special Interest Group Gets First Crack at the Findings.

by Categorized: Environment, Health, Transparency/FOI Date:

Epidemiologists have long wondered if there is a link between diesel exhaust and lung cancer in miners. So the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have have spent millions of dollars over the last 20 years studying the health of thousands of miners.

Now, they’re ready to publish the results that landmark study. But as the Center for Public Integrity reports, a federal judge has ordered the government to first turn the manuscript, study data and other documents over to an industry trade group for a 90-day sneak peek before the public has a chance to see it. Read the CPI report here.

Toxic Releases Down in State

by Categorized: Environment Date:

Connecticut companies released 2.7 million pounds of chemicals into the state’s air, land and waterways in 2010 – and that may be the good news.

The discharges, equaling the weight of about a dozen schoolbuses, represent a significant reduction from earlier years, according to recently issued data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

About half the chemicals were released into the air, primarily through smokestacks. About 11 percent of the discharges – nearly 300,000 pounds – were into surface water.

Nitrate compounds, a common byproduct of industrial wastewater treatment, was the most commonly discharged pollutant. The company releasing the most pollutants was AES Thames, which operated a coal-fired power plant in Montville. AES Thames filed for bankruptcy last year and is dismantling the plant.

Discharges statewide in 2010 dropped 19 percent from a year earlier. Nationally, nearly 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment in 2010, according to the EPA, a 16 percent increase from 2009.

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