A major heat wave is blanketing much of the Middle Atlantic and Southeast and little relief is expected for several days. It is at least somewhat unusual to have this kind of heat so early. There are a number of factors that seems to intensify the warming. First, until recently we have been in a very stressful drought. Even now many portions of Eastern North Carolina are considered abnormally dry. A dry ground helps the ground heat up faster in the morning thus giving greater warmth in the afternoon. Even a little rain helps cool the temperature some since it takes additional solar energy to reheat the surface even after the raindrops stop. Second, there has been very few clouds to slow the rise of the temperature. Mostly sunny skies allows the sun to beam its warmth directly at us rather than being reflected back into space by clouds. Third, the wind has remained primarily from a west or southwest direction which is off heated land. Consequently, most of the region has not had the cooling effect of a sea breeze which could drop temperatures 10 degrees or more. Fourth, the upper levels of the atmosphere above 10,000 feet are abnormally warm and that helps to enhance the warmth where we live on the surface.
The larger question that most of us have is when will it finally cool down. There is little relief over the next few days as we should still reach well into the 90s and maybe even 100 degrees. It appears the upper levels of the atmosphere may begin to cool slightly by the middle of the week and, along with a bit more cloud cover, we should see temperatures returning closer to a normal reading. However, long-range forecasts suggest that above normal temperatures with below normal rainfall will continue for the next 10 days to two weeks.