Monday, August 26, 2013

Sidewalk Omelets

Published in the Sun August 24, 2013

A Failed Experiment

Last week I foolishly tried to pick up a big steel chain that had been lying in the sun all afternoon.  It was hotter than the brass hinges of Hades.  I had to kick it along the ground to keep from losing the skin on my hands.  It made me think about that old saying about being hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk and wonder if that can actually be done.  Not willing to trust the people on You Tube about this important question, I decided to do the experiment myself.

At 3:00 on a sunny afternoon I placed a cast iron skillet on my driveway and let it heat up for 15 minutes.  An infrared thermometer told me the pan was 163 degrees.  The iron skillet holds more heat than the concrete, which was only 150 degrees.  I added a little butter and it melted nicely before I broke an egg into the pan.  Nothing happened.  I stirred the egg around, thinking that would help the process, and let it sit out in the sun for thirty minutes.  No scrambled egg for me.  It turns out the liquid in the egg cools the pan enough to keep it from cooking.  The egg started to dry up, and congealed into an unappealing tan colored slime, but it was definitely not cooked.  Oh well, I can cross sidewalk omelets off the bucket list.

Complaining about the heat is a major recreational pastime in August, but of course Texas is not even one of the hottest places.  Last July, the average high in Baghdad was 115, and often they suffer over 120 degrees.  How would you like to live there without air conditioning?  In January of this year, during a particularly bad heat wave, southern Australia had to add a new color to the weather maps:  a bright purple representing 125 to 129 degrees Fahrenheit.

But just because there are hotter places doesn’t mean we don’t have a legitimate complaint.  As I write this we are up to 30 days past the 100 degree mark and August isn’t half over.  Having satisfied my curiosity about eggs, I started wondering what is normal for 100 degree days around here.  The National Weather Service has kept records on Austin since 1898, and over that 115 year period they say that the average number of 100 degree days is thirteen.  You read that right:  When you look at the whole period since 1898, the average number of 100 degree days in a summer is 13.

Here is the number of 100 degree days we’ve experienced over the last few years:

2012 – 35
2011 – 90
2010 – 22
2009 – 68
2008 – 50
2007 – 3
2006 - 34

So it’s not your imagination.  It really has been hot lately.  But not quite hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk.



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