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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/31/2009

Summer 2009: Northwest Sizzles, Texas Withers

By Andrew Freedman

* Severe T-Storm Watch: Full Forecast | A Good Time to Watch Clouds *
* Outside Now? Radar, Temps, Clouds & More: Weather Wall *

The idiosyncratic summer of 2009 continues, with the Pacific Northwest experiencing an extremely unusual heat wave this week that may be a sign of things to come, courtesy of global climate change. Elsewhere, Texas continues to suffer through one of its worst droughts in memory, and the missing Indian Monsoon finally showed up this week -- in New York.


U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in South Texas as "Exceptional."

Meanwhile, after surprising cool temperatures and low humidity for much of June into July, the Washington area has reverted to its more typical warm and humid summer weather with occasional showers and thunderstorms. Considering what's been occurring elsewhere, I'd say the mid-Atlantic has lucked out so far.

Keep reading for more on the strange summer of 2009...

Putting the sizzle in Seattle

The Northwest heat wave, which is now ebbing somewhat, has been remarkable. On Wednesday, Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport recorded an all-time record high temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking a previous record of 100 last reached in 1994. Vancouver, Wash., exceeded its all-time high on Wednesday as well, with a high of 108. The old record was 105. Speaking of 105, Portland, Ore., which like Seattle is not exactly known for its air-conditioned buildings, hit 105 on Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the heat wave may set duration records as well. If high temperatures in Portland reach 90 or above through Saturday, it will break the all-time record for consecutive days at or above 90, which is eight. Portland is also shooting for its all-time hottest month on record.

While it's impossible to attribute any single weather event to climate change, the unusually intense and long-lasting Northwest heat wave is consistent with climate change studies that show that heat waves are likely to become more endemic features of the American climate. This may be due in part to human emissions of greenhouse gases, because as the overall climate warms, the distribution of extreme temperatures shifts as well, making warm extremes increasingly likely to occur, and cold extremes less common.

The heat wave is causing some residents of the Pacific Northwest to take notice of climate change, with Seattle Times business columnist John Talton writing, "Seattle needs to pause from the "you can tell your grandkids about the great heatwave of '09," and take stock of potential climate-change effects here, including, for the sake of this blog's mission, the economic ones. For this may not be a twice-a-century event any longer."

The heat wave in the Northwest stands in stark contrast to the Northeast and Midwest, where this summer has been barely lukewarm. Through yesterday, New York's Central Park had not yet reached 90 degrees this summer, a feat only accomplished once before. According to the NWS, daily average temperatures have run at or below normal on every day but one in July, and for 54 of the 59 days since June 1. New York has also recorded its second wettest June through July on record, with more than six inches of rain in July, and 1.52 inches on July 29 alone. The city is on track to potentially set a new record for wettest summer ever.

As previously noted, such rainfall is sorely needed in Texas, where an intractable drought has been taking a heavy toll on agriculture and recreation. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the seasonal drought outlook, relief is unlikely through October, although it's possible that a few slow-moving tropical weather systems could change that.

By Andrew Freedman  | July 31, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Extreme Heat, Freedman, News & Notes  
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Next: Alert: Tree Down on I-66 in Arlington

Comments

That Portland temperature was downtown; it was higher at the airport; both were within 1° of all-time highs. Records were also set as far north as Alaska.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 31, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Strong storms popping up W/SW of D.C. may impact area in mid-afternoon. Stay tuned to our weather wall http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2008/08/weather_gang_weather_wall.html. Severe Tstorm Watch may be issued soon, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Also, thanks CapitalClimate, for that info. I also saw a recent Climate Prediction Center product that called for extreme heat in Oregon and Washington on Aug. 2-3. That would not be welcomed.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 31, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Expansive Severe Thunderstorm Watch just issued, in effect until 900 PM. Here is the statement from the Storm Prediction Center (please excuse the formatting issues):

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF

WESTERN CONNECTICUT
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
DELAWARE
MARYLAND
NEW JERSEY
SOUTHERN NEW YORK
EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA
NORTHERN VIRGINIA
COASTAL WATERS

EFFECTIVE THIS FRIDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING FROM 120 PM UNTIL 900
PM EDT.

HAIL TO 1.5 INCHES IN DIAMETER...THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS TO 70
MPH...AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 80
STATUTE MILES EAST AND WEST OF A LINE FROM 40 MILES EAST
NORTHEAST OF POUGHKEEPSIE NEW YORK TO 15 MILES WEST OF PATUXENT
RIVER MARYLAND. FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE THE
ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU4).

REMEMBER...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE
FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH
AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR
THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS
AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OCCASIONALLY
DO PRODUCE TORNADOES.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 31, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Last time I was in Portland, OR was in July, 1962. There was also a big heat wave going on that summer. The beach at Astoria, on the Pacific was 105F the day we were there, and we actually saw the snow line move upwards in altitude on Mt. Hood over a three day period.

I can actually recall the article in the Oregonian forecasting thunderstorms "in Portland, where thunder is rare". As I recall, we had no thunderstorms with that frontal passage, but I can recall overnighting in San Diego at my cousin's house in Aug., 1991, when a very rare thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning hit with a half inch of rain, surprising San Diegans who appreciated the rainfall, as it rarely rains in San Diego from March to November.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | July 31, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

A reading of 105 on the coast would be highly unlikely, given that the all-time Astoria record is 101, and it's only been 95+ 10 times in over a century:

Rank Value Ending Date
1 101.0 7/1/1942
2 100.0 7/11/1961
3 99.0 6/30/1942
4 98.0 8/17/1908
5 97.0 6/8/1903
6 96.0 7/23/2004, 8/9/1981, 8/17/1940, 6/24/1925
10 95.0 8/13/2002

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 31, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The Northwestern heat wave did not happen as a result of "global warming" or "climate change". It was simply the result of an unusually strong upper-level ridge. It has happened before.....and will happen again.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | July 31, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Bombo,

August 1991 brings back memories for me--of Hurrican Bob, whose eye passed right over us in New Bedford, MA, where I lived at the time, bringing winds of up to 100 mph to the area. There was widespread tree downings--one street in my old neighborhood was completely blocked off in the hours following the storm--and many boats were washed ashore and on top of a local bridge. I also later saw a tornado path through some nearby woods.

Mark

Posted by: markf40 | July 31, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

MMCarhelp: I did not write that global warming caused the Pac NW heat wave, but rather that temperature extremes have been occurring more frequently, and future heat waves are likely to become more frequent and intense, due to a warming climate. There is a key difference between causation of a single event, and trends in events.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 31, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

See that part that looks like old blood? I'm headed there for most of August. The forecast is showing about 104 every day - before you factor in any humidity or anything. UGH.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | August 2, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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