Weather Blog

How hot was the summer of 2009? 2 1/2 recent summers' worth

How hot was the summer of 2009? 2 1/2 recent summers' worth
Alki Beach in West Seattle was packed with people enjoying the sunshine on Sunday.

The summer of 2013 is getting high marks from most Seattleites -- a poll we posted last week asking people to grade it so far had 60% give it an "A" and 27% a "B" -- likely in part due to its frequent sunny days and warm, but not too hot, temperatures. Of the 21 days so far in July, 17 of them have ranged from 71 to 83 for highs.

It's been a nice balance between the cooler than normal summers of the last few years and the searing hot summer of 2009, when Seattle hit an all-time record high of 103, part of the hottest week of weather in Seattle history.

But just how hot was that summer compared to the recent few? I wanted to find out using minutes we were at or above 80 degrees as a benchmark.

I started tracking the number of minutes Seattle has been at or above 80 (using minute-by-minute temperature data available through the University of Washington) during our rather very late start to summer in 2011 when we had a whopping 78 minutes through late July. And due to popular demand and being a weather numbers geek, I've kept it going in years' since, which you can find on Twitter @SummerMinutes.

For example, here is where we are so far this summer:

2625 is about on par with where we were in 2010, and way ahead of 2011 and 2012's paltry pace.

But we've had nothing compared ot 2009. In fact, it turns out 2009 was hotter than the summers of 2011, 2012 and what we've had so far in 2013-- combined!

Here is the "Summer Minutes" chart for the past 4 1/2 years:

  May June July August September Total
2009 40 1657 6429 2295 1102 11523
2010 0 0 2802 3468 47 6317
2011 0 0 351 1352 1703 3323
2012 0 0 58 3592 738 4388
2013 449 1270 906* -- -- 2625*

*Through July 22

Interesting to note our May was much warmer than 2009 and that we had gone the previous three years without hitting 80 at UW until July.

Where will 2013 end up? Long range models at this point only have a couple of marginally 80-degree UW days over the next few days and no big searing heat waves (at least not yet) to really boost the totals (90 degree days tend to add about 500-700 minutes to the totals each day). But as we saw in 2011 -- we can get quite a few hours of summer weather in September. If I had to wager, I'd say we'll probably come in somewhere around 2010's numbers. Feel free to follow along and track our progress!