Weather Blog

With average high of 80, it's officially Seattle's hottest summer on record

With average high of 80, it's officially Seattle's hottest summer on record
Photo courtesy: Sigma Sreedharan Photography

This might be the ultimate statistic to show just how hot a summer it's been in Seattle this year:

In typical summers, Seattle gets a handful of 80 degree days a year (25 to be exact -- OK, so they're big hands).

This summer? It was the average high temperature.

In about as big a surprise as Kanye West doing something zany at the MTV Video Music Awards, Seattle has officially notched its hottest summer on record. (Yes, technically there are still three weeks in summer by our calendar, what with that whole autumnal equinox and all, but "meteorological summer" runs June 1-Aug. 31. Meteorological fall is Sept. 1-Nov. 30; winter is Dec. 1-Feb. 28, spring is March 1-May 31).

And by all measures, it wasn't even close.

It is indeed the first summer ever here that averaged a high temperature over 80 degrees, checking in at 80.2. (The fact that 47 of the 92 days this summer were above 80 might have had something to do with it*.) Second place on the hottest average high temperature? WAY down the chart at 77.6 degrees, set both in 1961 and 1958. 

Our average summer high is 73.4.

Beating a statistic averaged over three months by over 2 1/2 degrees is like winning the Super Bowl over the AFC champion by 36 points (wink).

What about by average overall temperature? Smashed that record too. The average temperature (high+low divided by 2) was 69.2 degrees, breaking the previous record of 67.4 degrees set way back in… 2013 (by nearly two degrees!)

In fact, the top three hottest summers at Sea-Tac Airport by average temperature are now the last three summers. 2014's summer was 66.8 degrees. 2009 is in sixth place. The average for summer is 63.6.

As you've seen in earlier blogs, forecasters are giving better than average odds that next summer will be warm too. But this summer has set the bar so high, it seems it'll be difficult to reach again anytime soon**.

* - Seattle has had a record 49 days above 80 this year, but two occurred in May.
** - Not to be taken as a taunt or challenge to Mother Nature.

August no slouch on its own

For just the individual month of August, it'll go down as the 4th warmest on record by average overall temperature (68.7), extending our streak to 19 consecutive months with above average monthly temperatures. It also continues a three-year streak of a Top 5 warmest August. 3rd place on the list is 2014; 2nd place is 2013.

By average high temperature, it was tied for 7th warmest (79.0) -- the cool end to the month dropped us down from loftier heights.

For rainfall, it was the opposite story. Seattle finished up with the 4th wettest August on record with 3.28" of rain, and for the first time in city history, had two separate days with over 1" of rain.

Just how windy was it? Here's a list of peak gusts

Just how windy was it? Here's a list of peak gusts
The ferry Cathlamet navigates some rough waters of the Puget Sound during a wind storm on Aug. 29, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Mike Cresswell)

The windstorm on Saturday will surely go into the record books for some of the strongest winds, if not strongest ever recorded in August.

Winds on the coast hit well over 60 mph, including Destruction Island clocking a peak gust of 87 mph! But even the inland areas were rocked, with a gust to 66 mph on Lopez Island, 70 mph at Whidbey Island NAS -- and 81 mph on a boat in the Rosario Strait!

In the city areas, Everett (Paine Field) had three separate gusts near 60 mph -- a 59, 60, and 61 mph gust! Tacoma wasn't too far behind at 54 mph, while Seattle (Sea-Tac) hit 46 mph. Although looking at the outage chart by Seattle City Light and the with the wide swath of power outages in the northern half of the city suggests wind speeds were greater there.

The National Weather Service has compiled this handy chart of peak winds across several sites in Western Washington:

How did Saturday's windstorm compare to Seattle's greats?

How did Saturday's windstorm compare to Seattle's greats?

 Local meteorologists are still a bit in awe over the power of the storm Saturday that is likely the earliest windstorm on record in the Pacific Northwest -- by several weeks!

In tracking some of the peak gusts, I realized some of the gusts experienced Saturday were stronger in some spots than some of our greatest wind storms on record.

Move over Mt. Rainier, wildfire smoke creates its own lenticular cloud

Move over Mt. Rainier, wildfire smoke creates its own lenticular cloud
Photo: Michael Bendtson

The "hat cloud" -- officially known as a lenticular cloud -- is a fairly common sight around here on Mt. Rainier. Locals know it's a fairly good indicator it's about to rain in the next day or so.

But you don't always need the state's largest mountain to create the cloud. Sometimes, other clouds can do the trick!

The photo above was taken by Michael Bendtson in Wenatchee of the smoke plume from the Wolverine Fire in the Entiat Valley. But note on the top of the left cloud is a bit of a hat -- a lenticular cloud!

Nearly Seattle summer's worth of rain falls in 30 minutes in South Dakota

Nearly Seattle summer's worth of rain falls in 30 minutes in South Dakota
A torrent of water rushes through the typically mild waterfalls of Falls Park in Sioux Falls on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, after flash floods hit the city over night. Some parts of the city got over 7 inches, more than twice the forecast rainfall. (AP Photo/Kevin Burbach)

There was a massive thunderstorm that struck the town of Sioux Falls, South Dakota Thursday night, dumping rain amounts rarely seen and caused massive flash flooding.

More than 7 inches of rain fell in part of town, according to KELOland.com, knocking out power to more than 2,000 people.

Seattle hit 90 more often than Chicago, Boston this summer

Seattle hit 90 more often than Chicago, Boston this summer
Photo courtesy: Sigma Sreedharan Photography

When you think of a place to go to experience 90 degrees in the summertime, Seattle isn't likely to be one of the first few choices….or first several choices…or maybe even a thought at all. On average, Seattle gets about two 90 degree or warmer days a year; maybe three.

This year, we had that quota filled before Independence Day. In fact, Seattle's had so many 90 degree days that we're ahead of some other cities in the U.S. with more of a reputation of summer heat.

Astronaut gets some amazing photos of unusual red sprites above thunderstorms

Astronaut gets some amazing photos of unusual red sprites above thunderstorms
Photos were acquired on August 10, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 28 millimeter lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. (Photo: NASA)

Sprites are rare and beautiful -- and a bit difficult to spot from the ground as they occur atop thunderstorms. But when you're 249 miles up in space, you get a much better viewing angle to these fairly recently discovered events.

These red spikes of light stretched about 60 miles high into the atmosphere. According to NASA, "sprites are major electrical discharges, but they are not lightning in the usual sense. Instead, they are a cold plasma phenomenon without the extremely hot temperatures of lightning that we see underneath thunderstorms. Red sprites are more like the discharge of a fluorescent tube. Bursts of sprite energy are thought to occur during most large thunderstorm events."

Photographer gets incredible shots of the Northern Lights at Mt. Baker

Photographer gets incredible shots of the Northern Lights at Mt. Baker
The Northern Lights as seen from Artist Point near Mt. Baker on Aug. 22, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Jack Nichols)

Jack Nichols and his friend Nate had a plan under what should have been a starry night Saturday night - wait until midnight when the quarter moon sets and it's totally black, then head up to Artist Point and get some amazing shots of the Milky Way galaxy over a majestic Mt. Baker.

That was all great, until smoke from the wildfires in Eastern Washington got in the way.

"Largely those of us on the west side have been spared, but Saturday morning the winds changed and the smoke drifted west, creating a scene that looked more like Beijing than Seattle," Nichols wrote in his blog. "Consequently, when we arrived at Artist Point, we were greeted with a bunch of smoke and a barely visible Mt. Baker. I went for a Milky Way shot anyways, as it's really unorthodox. Not too often you can barely see the mountain behind a curtain of smoke!"

Wildfire ash makes for false 60 mph wind reports from Omak

Wildfire ash makes for false 60 mph wind reports from Omak

Among the countless items being affected by the raging wildfires in Eastern Washington, you can add the weather observation equipment to the list.

For much of Friday, the wind gauge at Omak Airport was reporting steady winds in the 40-45 mph range with frequent gusts to 55-60 mph. (The largest gust on that chart says 58 mph, but in the raw observation, it notes there was a 52 knot/60 mph peak gust in between the posted observations.)

Warm 'blob', 'Bruce Lee El Niño" to keep Seattle warm through fall of 2016?

Warm 'blob', 'Bruce Lee El Niño" to keep Seattle warm through fall of 2016?
A warm October day in Seattle in 2014. Latest forecasts indicate there could be plenty more in October 2015 and in 2016. (Photo: Mo Aoun)

It's the third Thursday of the month, known as the day when NOAA releases their updated seasonal forecast maps, or alternatively, as the day skiers shut off their Facebook and Twitter accounts and instead curl up in a dark room with a half gallon of ice cream and a Warren Miller film.

Last month's update continued the same drumbeat of "warm weather to last for the next 15 months" and this month's maps are no different.

Yet another Seattle all-time heat record is broken

Yet another Seattle all-time heat record is broken
Photo courtesy: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

If breaking a Seattle heat record sounds like a broken record these days, you'd be right. Most of the gaudy records have already fallen, with a few more set to fall soon.

For one of them, their time is Wednesday, albeit it's an admittedly obscure record -- one I made up all by myself: The amount of "Summer minutes" Seattle experiences in a year.

Talk about a super-soaker: Incredible microburst captured on video



Tucson might be known for its endless desert sunshine and triple digit temperatures, but when it rains, wow, can it pour.

Storm chaser Bryan Snider captured this amazing video of a microburst that hit part of Tucson on Aug. 8. Watch at about 11 seconds and you'll see what looks like a massive water balloon fall from the sky and just drench the city below.