Weather Blog

Spring 2011: A broken record of broken records

Spring 2011: A broken record of broken records
Visibility web camera shows a grey Seattle on April 25, 2011. (Image courtesy: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency)

Is breaking records is starting to sound like a broken record? It is if you're tracking how this spring stacks up against the previously coldest spring months in Seattle.

High pressure has been locked in farther offshore this spring, allowing the jet stream to arc up into Alaska, then dip just to our south, providing an seemingly endless supply of cool air to the Pacific Northwest.

Through Saturday, May's average high temperature is 59.7 degrees. At the moment, that puts this month as the fourth-coldest in Seattle (Sea-Tac) since records have been kept there in 1945. (By average temperature, which accounts for both high and low temperature, it's sixth coldest at 52.1. But I prefer to track average high because that is what most people experience.)

This, of course, comes fresh off the heels of the coldest April on record, and one of the wettest March's on record. And if it hadn't of been for a lucky spike of 70 degrees for literally a minute or two on May 20, we'd be currently smashing to bits the record for latest inaugural 70 degree day of the year. (But don't worry, we're hot on the heels' of the latest 75 degree record.)

So just in case you really want to brag to your friends about how your sunglasses have collected dust and you're still keeping the fleece handy as we turn the page into June, here are the gory details of how this spring has shaped up so far, including some oldie but goodie records we broke earlier this year.

Cold Months

* May is fourth coldest on record (by average high temperature):
1) 57.2 (1962)
2) 58.9 (1955)
3) 59.6 (1999)
4) 59.7 (2011)
5) 60.5 (1960, 1984, 1996)

* April was coldest on record (by average high temperature)

1) 52.2 (2011)
2) 52.6 (1970)
3) 52.8 (1955)

* For March through May (basic spring months), it's the second coldest three-month stretch on record (by average high temperature)
1) 52.6 (1955)
2) 54.4 (2011)
3) 54.7 (2002)

It's been wet too

* The 3.20" of rain in May is 7th wettest at Sea-Tac:
1) 4.76 " (1948)
2) 3.70" (1977)
3) 3.61" (2009)
... 6) 3.27" (2000)
7) 3.20" (2011)

That comes on the heels of March being the 6th wettest.

* March through May has been the second-wettest on record at Sea-Tac:
1) 14.34" (1997)
2) 13.96" (2011)
3) 12.58" (1991)

*March and April each finished in second place in their respective months for number of rainy days (24 and 21, respectively.) March record was 27 (1989) and April record was 25 (1993).

*March through May this year has had the most number of rainy days combined for the three month period.
1) 59 (2011)
2) 57 (1960, 1993)
4) 55 (2010)

* Since Jan. 1 through May, we are tied for third place for number of rainy days through May:
1) 98 (1961)
2) 97 (2010)!
3) 95 (2011, 1999)

70 Watch Done, now time for 75 Watch... again

We all know Seattle ended up just short of setting the record for latest inaugural 70 degree day (Record stands at May 23. We tied 2nd on May 20th). But what about 75 degrees?

Right now, we're already up to the 5th latest date. Believe it or not, this record was smashed just last year and now we're heading up the chart once again:

1) June 23, 2010
2) June 9, 1991
3) June 8, 1955
4) June 3, 2000
5) May 31, 2011* current

Incidentally, this chart is a good example of the pitfalls of trying to extrapolate past data into future forecasting. 1991 was one of the hottest summers on record. 1955 stands as the coldest.

If you are looking for the (sun) light at the end of the tunnel, the forecasts are trending for sunny and warmer this weekend, and beyond that, the newer long range forecasts are trending toward a better than equal chance for at least a drier summer, if not really giving much hint at whether it'll be cooler or warmer than normal.