Weather Blog

How this West Coast heat wave made history

How this West Coast heat wave made history
Cheng Jia, of china, poses by a digital thermometer at the Furnace Creek Vistitor Center in Death Vally National Park Friday, June 28, 2013 in Furnace Creek, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

With plenty of records falling -- some of them that have stood for quite some time -- I thought I'd recap just how this current mega West Coast heat wave will be remembered in the meteorological history books.

First, the big kahunas:

* Death Valley, Calif. hit 129 degrees on Sunday, which not only set a record high for the day, it tied a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States in June, matching the 129 set on June 23, 1982 at Volcano, Calif.

(The 129 also matches the hottest temperature Death Valley has recorded in recent history. The only times it has reached 130 or warmer were the three days of the heat wave where it reached the world record of 134 in July of 1913.)


Photo: National Weather Service

* Death Valley also recorded their hottest June ever with an average temperature of 101.3, breaking their old record by nearly a full degree of 100.4 set in 1960.

* Las Vegas tied their all-time record high of 117 on Sunday. Then Monday morning, they tied their all-time record low of 95.

As you might imagine, here is what happens to the Vegas Strip when it's 115+ outside -- not exactly casino-hopping weather:



Closer to home:

* The 89 degree high for Seattle on Monday broke the record high for the day of 87, set twice in 1995 and 1968. But by coming up short of 90, July 1 remains with July 8 as the only two dates this month that have record highs under 90.

* Seattle hit 93 on Sunday, our first 90 in June since 2009 but not a record, which was 96. However, we did smash the record Monday morning for the warmest low temperature at 67, breaking the old record of 60.

* Despite the gaudy high temperature numbers, the Puget Sound region really did dodge a bullet as far as heat waves go. Normally to get into the 90s, we need the heating power of an east wind, usually courtesy of a thermal trough, but this event, there was no east wind to be found. Instead, we were baking in the 90s courtesy of a super-heated air mass from the big heat ridge in the Desert Southwest that was rewriting their record books.

Had the ridge of high pressure been centered farther west and had we had a thermal trough, Seattle likely would have been rewriting its own record books as we would have been in the realm of another 100+ degree day, especially if the heat held into a third or fourth day. The infamous 103 day in July, 2009 had a few hot days ahead of it, courtesy of a super heated air mass. It also had a bit of humidity around to keep the overnight temperatures warm (Seattle barely dropped to the low 70s) then added in a thermal trough for a boost of heating from the east wind to push the area above the triple digits.

In this current scenario, we were probably about three-four steps down the path toward 100, but then the ridge ended up farther east, and that not only kept the thermal trough away but also allowed in some cooler marine breezes a bit earlier.

* Speaking of humidity, while it was a bit muggy here, it was nothing like Eastern Washington on Monday. At one point, Pullman reported a temperature of 87 degrees -- with a 76 degree dew point! That translated to a humidity of 70% -- unheard of around here for that warm a temperature and likely would have obliterated an all-time record high dew point had such records been kept.

Bet WSU mascot Butch wasn't too happy about it, but he found some solace at the WSU creamery (and happy at least he doesn't have the thick fur like a UW Husky!)


Photo Courtesy: WSU