The big news is cooler marine air has arrived, bringing temperatures to more comfortable levels.
How do you describe this heat wave? The average high temperatures for late June in the North Sound are in the lower 70s, and these hot temperatures were 30 to 40 degrees above average! Some descriptive words can include historic, unprecedented, epic, unheard-of, inconceivable, extraordinary, phenomenal, unimaginable. I imagine you could use other words.
Summer, only about a week old, clearly arrived with a blow torch. As expected, high temperatures over the weekend shattered North Sound temperature records. These were temperatures that as one group of meteorologists called it – a once in a thousand year event.
Not only was it very hot during the day, temperatures did not release their grip at night making sleeping quite uncomfortable for those without air conditioning. On Monday morning, Paine Field in Everett set an all-time warmest low temperature record of 75 degrees, breaking the previous record of 73 set on July 29, 2009 – the previous historic heat wave.
You heard the term – heat dome – used to describe what caused these extreme warm temperatures. Essentially, an upper level high in the atmosphere got cut off from the main westerly flow off the Pacific and the upper high’s air sinking motion and resulting low level offshore flow produced the rising temperatures. Listen to my podcast where I talk about the impacts of low-level offshore flow and heatwaves.
How warm was this heat dome? The freezing level at Quillayute Prairie Airport about 10 miles west of Forks on the north coast where weather balloons are launched twice daily, measured a freezing level of 18,600 feet on Monday morning. That freezing level is more common over the desert southwest and something this meteorologist has never ever seen before here. Temperatures atop Mt. Rainier were well into the 40s if not topping 50 degrees.
The impacts of this heat wave were widespread. Impacts included a number of people suffering heat related illnesses, some going to the emergency room. Some businesses had to close. Athletic contests were cancelled or postponed. Highway pavement buckled with the intense heat. And now all the precipitation that fell earlier in the month has dried up, leaving an elevated wildfire threat for the rest of the summer.
These record crushing temperatures occurred within the first week of summer, begging the question – what about the rest of the summer. Rick Merrill Law ran a promotion that was only a week old, that if the Aquasox’ Funko Field (that uses Paine Field weather) hit 90 degrees, free iced drinks would be available at Diedrich Expresso stands for 90 minutes the next day. 90 degrees was exceeded on Saturday and the following day, over 3200 iced drinks were served courtesy of Rick Merrill Law. Since 1948, Paine Field had hit 90 only 11 times, and over the weekend, the temperature exceeded 90 three times, the final one hitting 100 on Monday, tying the all-time hottest temperature hit just last August.
The latest seasonal outlook for the period thru September shows good odds of warmer and drier than average conditions. It is quite unlikely the North Sound will experience these recent hot temperatures again this summer, but it does look like many days will rise above the usual summer high temperatures in the 70s.
After a dry spring and this intense heat wave, conditions in the region are quite dry with a heightened fire threat. With the Fourth of July and outdoor burn bans in effect, everyone needs to be careful with any burning materials. Many communities have banned fireworks this year and encourage attending public fireworks displays instead.
Nature’s air conditioning from the Pacific Ocean has arrived spreading cooler marine air into the North Sound. We just experienced a once in a lifetime heat wave, but summer is just getting started with a warm dry summer ahead. Have a safe and sane Fourth of July, and stay cool!