Coast-to-Coast U.S. Heat Wave May Break Records, Hurt Crops

Oppressive heat will blanket the U.S. from California to the Northeast through at least the middle of next week, driving up energy demand, stressing crops and probably setting new records.

New York’s Central Park is forecast to reach 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) Thursday, and will remain in the high 80s through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Heat advisories are in place in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and reach into western and northern New York and central New England.

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“This heat is different,” Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, said by telephone. “It’s spread over a large geographic area all the way from Southern California to New England.”

Don’t expect much relief after the sun goes down. Daytime temperatures in the 90s will be followed by overnight lows lingering in the 70s. While past years may have been hotter, notably 2011 and 2016, the extensive reach of this heat wave and the warm nights may create record electricity demand for cooling.

Record Demand

Population-weighted cooling degree days, a measure of weather’s impact on energy demand, may break the current record of 415 set in 2011, Rogers said. The higher the number the more electricity is used by consumers to stay cool.

The heat can stress developing corn and soybean plants affecting yields later in the season.

“It’s definitely going to have some impacts on corn and beans, especially corn,” Don Keeney, a meteorologist with Maxar in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said by telephone.

From Friday to Monday, a searing blast of heat will press down on the Southwest from Arizona to West Texas. Temperatures in some areas could soar as much as 10 to 15 degrees above normal, with pockets reaching 20 degrees higher than the 30-year average, according to Lara Pagano, a forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

The heat drove up wholesale power prices in Michigan to $396 a megawatt-hour at 5 p.m. Tuesday, the highest in records going back to 2005, according to Genscape data. And the Midcontinent Independent System Operator has warned there could be shortages as demand taxes the grid.

The entire U.S. grid will be stressed by the heat, especially the PJM Interconnection LLC system that stretches across 13 states in the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group LLC.

“There will be a brief break and then the real deal, which never goes away from the Midwest, will reach our area next week.”

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