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Heat Wave Story and Analysis

While a junior in high school, Dylan Mathieu wrote a weather story as part of his internship at CIMSS. He then developed a series of research questions from his personal experience story. He collected and analyzed weather observations to answer one of those questions.

Heat Wave Story

by Dylan Mathieu

"Coincidences? You're telling me about coincidences?" I responded to my friend as he prepared to embark on yet another account about losing some possession of his, then discovering it the next day.

"You don't have any good stories to tell me; you're just a normal kid from a small town in Wisconsin," he rudely responded, sticking out his jaw as though challenging me for a better story.

Glancing over at him with a bemused look, I sat down on our ancient rocking chair and began to tell my favorite tale, regarding my father and the "heat wave theory."

Several years ago, my mother and I began noticing a disturbing trend in the weather. Every time my dad left on a trip, which happened far too often, the temperature shot upwards to unbearable heights. It was as though he could predict the forthcoming weather, and therefore avoid it by planning "important" meetings at precisely the same time. At first, my mom and I could ignore these coincidences, but after countless repeat occurrences, we felt the need to test our theory.

Summer had just begun, and the weather was mild, with temperatures hovering around the 60s. The previous week my father had informed us of his upcoming business trip to Chile, for which he was leaving today. While we would remain in Madison, my dad would be high in the mountains, working in a beautiful country with a temperate climate. I begged him to allow me to travel with him, but he refused, claiming travel costs and the lack of activities for a child at a Chilean telescope. My cheerful spirits crushed, I rushed off to my bedroom to pout and complain about how unfair this was. Presently, with a short knock on the door, my mom quietly slipped in, glancing around furtively and with a suppressed smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She sat down next to me on my bed, and unfolded today's copy of the newspaper. "Look here," She said, "The weather for this week is supposed to be wonderfully cool, with a slight wind. Let's see if the absence of your father can change that to a week of oppressive heat and humidity."

When my dad finally finished packing his suitcase, we crammed his luggage into the trunk, and piled into our Toyota to depart for the airport. We rolled down all the windows, savoring the cool spring air that rushed through the moving car. Upon entering the airport terminal, we heard the boarding call for my father's plane, so he quickly ran ahead, waving goodbye while juggling his luggage. My mom and I waved back, and watched out the window as the jumbo jet roared down the runway and lifted off. We headed for the car, and hastily returned home so I could go to sleep at my customary 9:00 bedtime. When we pulled into the driveway, our cat was lying stretched out in the grass, enjoying the weather to its fullest. That evening I fell asleep immediately, so that I could enjoy what was supposed to be a wonderful day tomorrow.

At this time, my friend interrupted my dialogue, and with a whining tone in his voice said, "I'm hungry, let's get a snack out of the kitchen."

We got up from the couch, and I brought out some crackers and a hunk of cheddar cheese, which he immediately began devouring. After this brief culinary break, I was able to return to my story, and I now had a contented audience.

The next morning, I awoke to a new, foreign humming emanating from the vent near my bed. Stumbling downstairs, I questioned my mom as to the source of this annoyance. With a disgusted look on her face she muttered, "I had to turn on the air conditioner this morning. The temperature has already hit ninety degrees."

"But, but," I stammered, unable to comprehend this drastic turnaround from the mild weather I had fallen asleep with. Suddenly, what had happened dawned on me. My father's departure had triggered yet another heat wave, which would undoubtedly last until his return. I decided to step outside, to feel this unfortunate change for myself. As I opened the door and walked onto the porch, there was little noticeable difference. Laughing a little, I thought to myself, "Oh, my mom was just worrying too much again." Then I walked out into the sunlight, and suddenly a wall of heat hit me. Reeling back slightly, I realized the true extent of the drastic temperature change that had come upon us. Shockingly, along with feeling the heat, I was also able to see it, because the road in front of our house was covered in shimmering waves. Looking to the side, I noticed my cat sitting miserably in the pitiful shade provided by our small evergreen tree. She gazed longingly at our front door, and when I opened it, she bounded across the yard and into the house, heading straight for her water dish.

Throughout the day the red line in the thermometer crept upwards, defying gravity in its path towards the top of the glass. Finally, in the mid afternoon, the temperature leveled off at around 97 degrees. Along with this heat came an unbelievable humidity that made everyone soaked and exhausted after just a few minutes of exercise. Due to this, we spent the afternoon sitting near the struggling air conditioner, and attempting to move as little as possible. In the evening, the telephone rang, and when my mom answered it, my dad's voice boomed out. Of course, he reported beautiful weather in Chile, and then innocently asked about the weather in Madison. "Well, one could fry eggs on the sidewalk." She tiredly replied, having resorted to poor humor in her overheated state. "Actually it is about 100 degrees and it's all your fault," she then said in an accusatory tone.

"My fault?" was my dad's surprised retort.

"Yes, it's entirely your fault. Our experiment has proven that when you leave, there will always be a heat wave!"

Heat Wave Analysis


Sponsored by:
Wisconsin Arts Board CIMSS UW Folklore Program