After pointing out an airplane got stuck in heat softened asphalt, Al Gore misses the fact that many of the surface temperatures used in climate come from airports

From Al’s Journal, some seriously dysfunctional thinking using props he doesn’t understand. Al brings attention to the fact that at Washington Reagan National Airport some tarmac asphalt got soft on a hot day, and the tires sunk into it a bit…making it a monumental event in his world of “weather is now climate”context.

Phillip Dugaw’s airplane to Charlston, S.C. got stuck in a soft spot caused by the heat on the tarmac at Reagan Airport on Friday. The photo went viral after he posted it to Reddit.

Al Gore writes:

So Hot the Asphalt is Melting July 13, 2012 : 2:53 PM

Sustained high temperatures from this year’s record-breaking heat wave caused an unusual disruption at Washington’s Reagan-National Airport. The Washington Post reports:

“Things were proceeding normally Friday evening as a US Airways flight was leaving the gate at Reagan National Airport to begin its flight to Charleston, S.C.

“But the temperature reached 100 degrees in Washington on Friday and that apparently softened the airport paving enough to immobilize the airplane. The small vehicle that usually tows planes away from the gate tugged and pulled, but the plane was stuck.”

. . .

“It was “pretty rare,” Mohr said. But then, she noted, “we’ve also had very unusual temperatures.”

Asphalt softening and rutting is something that happens at many traffic intersections around the world where cars idle in high temperature. It is a common occurrence.

High temperatures soften the asphalt binder, allowing heavy tire loads to deform the pavement into ruts. Paradoxically, high heat and strong sunlight also causes the asphalt to oxidize, becoming stiffer, less resilient and cracking. Cold temperatures can cause cracks as the asphalt contracts. Cold asphalt is also less resilient and more vulnerable to cracking. Source: Asphalt concrete degradation and restoration

Here’s an example from the Oregon Department of Transportation via Oregon State University:

The ASOS weather station at Reagan National Airport is right on the asphalt. That makes it the worst of the worst when it comes to station siting.

Washington National Airport ASOS looking East – click to enlarge – Source Bing Maps

And Dr. James Hansen’s NASA GISS uses that very station  in climate trend analysis, as seen here from their database:


Here’s Washington National Airport temperature data again (in blue), but this time plotted along with nearby neighboring stations within 40 km:


Given the growth of Washington DC and the airport itself, is it any surprise that it is the hottest station in the area? From Indur Goklany’s essay: The Highest Temperature Reading Doesn’t Necessarily Mean a Record Hot Day:

This is what Reagan National Airport looks like in the present.


Figure 1: Photograph from 2011. At left foreground is the Jefferson Monument. Behind it on the other side of the river, with the plane hovering over it is Reagan National Airport. Note the development, Crystal City, on the right hand side, also on the other side of the river.

But here is a photograph that shows us what this area look like a few decades ago.


Figure 2: This picture, taken in 1942, shows the Jefferson Monument under construction. There is no Crystal City on the right, nor is there any Reagan National Airport. In fact, as one can see, that area was still being filled in. In the 19th century, the area occupied by the Memorial and adjacent land was also water, since much of this is also filled-in land.

Remember this quote from airline spokesperson Michelle Mohr?

“It was “pretty rare,” Mohr said. But then, she noted, “we’ve also had very unusual temperatures.”

Well…no. What is even funnier, is that the 100°F temperature that day wasn’t even a record high:


I think the only thing that’s soft here is Al Gore’s argument.

h/t to Tom Nelson for Al’s comment


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Tom Bakewell

I can remember whatever passed for pavement in rural Cuba in the late 50’s melting enough so bicycling was out of the question. Pushing those fat tyred beasts home wasn’t so much fun either.

Nicely done analysis!
Note that since 1970, the temperature trend has been relatively flat, with ups and downs the equivalent of “noise” in the data. The AGW crowd should be asked why temperatures are not following the CO2 trend. Could it be that they are not linked???

Climate-change votaries fetishise heat almost as much as trickery. Remember, they only persuaded US Congress of their case – after an unsuccessful first attempt – by doing the presentation on a hot day and sabotaging the air-conditioning system so that it didn’t work.

gopal panicker

Thats not asphalt

Pull My Finger

Bigger culprit is likely Al’s big fat tucchus seated in the airplane.


The asphalt was substandard.

Scott Covert.

I work near Death Valley CA, It hits 125F here, I have never seen asphalt yield that severely. It probably has more to do with the density of the compaction done when laying the pavement. I suppose in cooler areas, it doesn’t compact as well. Yes, I have and do see grooves in the roads here and a bycycle kickstand can drill a hole in fresh asphalt, but even at the literally blistering temperatures our asphalt achieves, I have never seen a rubber tire sink in like that.


I hope nobody steals my idea…. was thinking of a patent…..
What if they did at Reagan what they do at Las Vegas? You don’t hear about many planes getting stuck at LAS.
I’m gonna call the stuff Con-Crete…

I live a few miles to the south of National Airport and the other day as i was driving Rt 400 (The George Washingon Parkway, on the western edge of the airport) from Alexandria to a place in Arlington, I noticed my car’s exterior temperature gage rose 2 degrees (F) as I passed the airport and fell back 2 degree by the time I had reached the Pentagon. Anecdotal, but interesting.

MIke (UK)

I wish you could see whats happenong in the UK, its not only a washout its been like autumn since March with a hint of sun in May:
Taken from Bablake weather station here in the heart of England (Coventry, its been recoring for ages and has some very interesting statistics), web address here:
An environmental drought was decalred on the 16th April, since which time we have recorded 66 rain days out of a total of 87 days and 330.2mm of rain! .
Warmest day of 2012 so far 26.0°C 23rd May, flaming June came and went.
Warmest month of 2012 so far 14.0°C June
Wettest month of 2012 so far 142.4mm June
Average temperature in 2012 up to the end of June 8.6°C 0.0°C Compared to 30-year averages 1981-2010
July is meant to be our warmest month!
I’ll be glad to get to the States in a few months as there is no sign of a break in this dull, wet, cold weather.
Bring on melting tarmac! (I can remember our summer of ’76 and that was a scorcher, been downhill ever since)

Gunga Din

DJ says:
July 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm
I hope nobody steals my idea…. was thinking of a patent…..
What if they did at Reagan what they do at Las Vegas? You don’t hear about many planes getting stuck at LAS.
I’m gonna call the stuff Con-Crete…
I think Al would rather they used Pykrete. It would make a better photo-op.


Don’t see stuff like that at PHX. Must be the shoddy construction that is the usual result of awarding contracts based on political feedback rather then capability. The contractors probably got bonuses for using politically correct materials as opposed to mechanical correct.

Gunga Din

Is this post a bonus bonus “Funny Friday”?

Jeff Westcott

Aircraft tires are far more heavily weighted at rest, or taxiing, than cars or even trucks. That’s why taxiways at commercial airports are almost exclusively concrete. I suspect that this aircraft was off its authorized path when this occured.

Dan in California

Here in the desert, it regularly gets to 110F air temperature. Black surfaces get to about 160F in the intense sunlight that I doubt they had in DC. It gets to 160F inside my car on occasion. Planes have no trouble here, so I have to think it was a taxiway not specified for high temps. We have every kind of plane up to 747s here and they don’t sink.

Garry Stotel

Asphalt should never be used for airports to support planes, because of its low melting point.
Regardless of the temperature of the air, if the plane is left in place for long enough with engines running, it would melt the asphalt. Only high-grade concrete should be used in commercial airports, never asphalt.
Also, as pointed out above, commercial planes weigh maybe 50 to 250 tons, and this is a helluva weight for just a few tires, hence soft asphalt is really not suitable, and should not be used.
Article really should be on incorrect material use, nothing to do with CO2 or “global warming”.

Mike Bentley

Just glanced at the highway photo – that has to be in Washington State between Spokane and the Wash-Idaho state line…I 90 doesn’t go through Oregon.
Just Sayin’
Mike Bentley

Garry Stotel

Asphalt would also soften from any kerosene spillage. Also, as it burns readily, is a fire hazard – in an airport.

Even better, a few years back they put in a new Lowe’s near where I lived. As part of the “improvement”, they repaved (with asphalt) the 4-lane city street in front of the new store. Naturally, they didn’t bother to redo the adjacent section of old concrete, & even more foresightedly, they did the paving in Winter. So, when I was riding a motorcycle down that very road the next Summer, there was an unexpected 6″ hump at the end of the new asphalt.

Gary Hladik

Jeff Westcott says (July 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm): “I suspect that this aircraft was off its authorized path when this occured.”
Maybe. Or maybe the surface was weakened by asphalt acidification. 🙂

Also, more evidence supporting the notion of insufficient paving methods: it’s not a particularly large aircraft.

Ian W

The airport pavement strength and the wheel loading from different types/marks of aircraft are codified in detail (see amongst others)
The airport is expected to only put aircraft on pavement that has the strength to stand up to the wheel loading of that aircraft – when fully fueled. However, it is not uncommon for the wrong pavement surface materials to be used by contractors or for the temperature / strength specification to be incorrect so the pavement softens and weakens at a lower temperature than expected. I saw aircraft up to the axles in tarmac over 30 years ago for this reason. As another poster has said, repeated kerosene spills also soften the tarmac making it more likely to give way, or worse peel back in the jet wash of a taxiing or taking off aircraft: and I have seen that as well.
So this is not anything to do with climate, it is more to do with poor quality pavement, or ramp control putting an aircraft that was too heavy on lower quality pavement.

Gunga Din

Low bid. I wonder what the contract specs were for that asphalt? Were they met?
Maybe we should go with best bid instead of low bid?


That road intersection is in Spokane and I was going to send a link to it before I saw you already had the image. It is Pines Road and the ruts are so bad they can be seen from space. Or at least from’s aerial imagery. The link below shows the same intersection but looking north vs south. It is a few blocks from by brother-in-law’s house and I know it very well.

Kevin Schurig

Algore missed the facts about the relationship between the rise in temp and CO2, why would he be on target for anything else?

I can remember from my childhood in the 50’s in Melbourne’s CBD finding my shoes sinking into the SR Bitumen Asphalt pavements on days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Since then Melboune has grown from 1 million to 5 million inhabitants with more asphalt, more mirrored skyscrapers and concreted areas all crowded around the Weather Bureau’s Weather Recording Equipment. Dutifully, the measured temperatures have risen steadily at the Bureau, but the Bureau has discounted UHI as the cause of rising temperatures and seized upon the reward-laden CAGW as the true source. They follow the money but not the Science.

If there was a Hansen-Gore in the area it could be Ass Fault….can goobs of grant money be far way?
If all you fund is findings for danger….danger is all you will find.


Gore is a prevaricating dimwit.

Jeff Westcott says July 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm
Aircraft tires are far more heavily weighted at rest, or taxiing, than cars or even trucks. That’s why taxiways at commercial airports are almost exclusively concrete. I suspect that this aircraft was off its authorized path when this occured.

I second this comment; there is more to this picture and the circumstances than what is being told …

I used to live and work a half mile from that intersection back around the time that picture was taken. Small world…

The record for “Washington National Airport” goes back to 1880. I wonder how it was constructed.


Ask Mr. Gore how global warming made it rain almost every day this spring in southern Norway.
It’s been raing every day the last 14 days here now. I’m tired of rain.


I worked my way through college driving a semi for North American Van Lines (furniture). I still remember one August day getting out of my truck at a residence in Philadelphia (or Pittsburgh – we’re talking 35 years ago) and seeing that I had pulled up the blacktop from the from the top of a long hill all the way down to my trailer tires – four rows of macadam.
Never occurred to me that is was AGW. Just four years earlier I had been arguing that the looming ice age was 1) overstated and 2) not caused by humans. Sheesh!


As already pointed out, the aircraft strayed from from the concrete. One of the first things I was taught about towing aircraft (1980) was to avoid parking tow tractors on asphalt due to the weight of the machines. Temperature was never mentioned.
It seems N420AW is on a secret mission


I can remember leaving footprints in hot pavement in pavement in Visalia, California, in the 1950s. Tar had been sprayed on a road with sand spread over it – not full-fledged asphalt. It blistered my bare feet. My cousins kept me informed about how long by foot prints were visible. They had shoe prints in the same stretch of road that day.


“Given the growth of Washington DC and the airport itself, is it any surprise that it is the hottest station in the area?”
According to the graph, it’s been the hottest station in the area since its inception. What does growth have to do with it?


I’m not sure how up-to-date Libhomeradar is.

Dave Worley

Many years ago I was at an airshow at our local airport. A Harrier made a vertical approach and as it got into the ground effect huge slabs of asphalt began lifting up and were blasted away by the jetwash. The blast apparently melted a hole and penetrated the first layer of asphalt. Slabs about 10 feet wide were lifted up by the air pressure under them. The pilot didn’t notice at first but when he did he made a hasty retreat. He was real lucky that one of the slabs didn’t snag a wing. They came close. Pretty exciting.
It’s really not the best material for airports.

Bob Massey

I just want to point out another hypocritical aspect of Al Gores statement. Most airports have things called a hard standing where people park their planes to avoid the problem he had and these are usually made with concrete so they don’t melt. I wonder why perhaps because it has happened once or twice before his apparent unprecedented problem. The guy is a moron.


I remember commuting to work, my first real job out of college, in Tucson, Arizona… fall 1977. The motorcycle parking lot at Hughes Aircraft Company, just south of KTUS, got so hot that there were 10″ square steel plates lying on the pavement to rest the kickstands on. If you didn’t use them, the bike could fall over as the asphalt gave way in the heat. It is a liquid.


Two things:
The article on nocturnal boundary layers and mixing states that ground contours affect the temperature measured at the ground, airports have different contours than most areas, being made deliberately flat for a wide area around, not even trees or tallish buildings allowed. That plus the large amounts of concrete and asphalt and such means that, with half of worldwide temperatures being measured at airports, half of temperatures are reporting micro-climates that differ from the actual regions climate.
Second, if I were wanting there to be warming (due to the money and power involved), and most temperatures measurement stations were no longer added to the “worldwide temperature” data, as they are not, I would look to see which stations were reporting temperatures I did not like, cool ones, and eliminate those from the data set. So, what I want to know is, not what is the temperature reported in the data sets of the worldwide measurement, but what is the temperatures of those stations deliberately excluded from that data set. Are the excluded stations excluded because they are reporting cooler temperatures?

George E. Smith;

lemme see if I got this correct; the Temperature was 100 deg (F) (Washpost says so) Human body Temperature is 98.6, so you can damn near melt asphalt with your bare hands. And all of this happens with an incoming solar insolation of 481 W/m^2 at the top of the atmosphere; simply wunnerful, I reckon !


Where I am the asphalt is prone to being wobbly due to the ordinary daytime heat. By the way is it not heat that helps to lay the asphalt?
Has anyone ever read Al Gore complaining about un-gritted icy roads causing accidents? The focus is always on heat because the focus is on making money off the back of the trace rise of the trace gas and plant essential carbon dioxide. What a scam.


Maybe it’s Trenbeth’s missing heat coming to the surface??? After all,I thought the Globull had found that heat,what with the millions of degrees at the Earth’s core,that only he knows about.
After 21 years in the Air Force,you learned really quick to ask what the taxiway/apron was made of on hot days and with a heavy load.Funny thing was,it was only civiy airports,anywhere in the world,that had this problem.

why not just stick half of the official thermometers on the glass of the nearest Hawaiian Shave Ice machine and average the temperatures…?

I Am Digitap

When I was a boy in school about 11 to 14 I was often walking along hot roads after swimming.
Asphalt would melt and stick to the bottoms of my feet.
My bare feet.
I’ve personally seen many a truck with it’s twin tires sitting in twin ruts on one end of an axle, and marveled that asphalt was so soft.
However… that’s less often seen but asphalt piling up at the end of a place where trucks stop often is legend. Asphalt-road intersections that bear heavy trucks of often concreted, specifically due to trucks deforming entire intersections.
Pfft. Let’s see.
Al Gore, whose personal fortune was originally -and still is- derived from Occidental Oil,
the Occidental Oil which is the number 2 oil company in California, number – count em: Three oil company in the world,
told us that we all need to
stop using coal
stop using regular oil.
His oil company is number three in the world, so why don’t we hear of them ?
Because that oil company is nearly one half
alternative energy.
Only half it’s income is derived from oil.
Yes, that Al Gore,
That alternative energy/oil baron.
I invite you all – go look it up.
He and his friends are – not were
they are running an enormous governmental fraud and scam ring
The staggering level of criminality here is really beyond comprehension. What ever happened to law enforcement?


It was rotten asphalt for sure. Loaded with that hideous CARBON! We’d better tax it away.


Al Gore thinks asphalt getting soft is unusual? Well, now we know why he thinks the current warming is unusual. He’s jumping the shark and doesn’t get out much. Asphalt is always hot in the summer and it can deform just by stepping on it, especially fresh asphalt that’s been laid recently (as in months). Next, he’ll be saying that if his ice cream melts, then that’s it… global catastrophic warming is undeniable. (half sarc. You just never know what ridiculous thing Gore will say next.)


What if…
What would it do to the green movement if it was discovered they used “green” asphalt at Reagan International as they have at O’Hare and Logan?
BTW, the paint stripe in the photo is the standard airport marker for a taxiway center line, so the plane was where it should have been.

Aphalt if formulated for various conditions – and has to withstand winter shrinkage and possible cracking if too stiff and the results in this photo if too soft. It is always a compromise between hot and cold, “expected” loading and the subsurface strength. Small aircraft with smaller wheels often have wheel loads similar to jumbo jets – F18 Hornets for example have similar ground pressure to a 747-400