Weather Blog

Seattle now home to even less than 78 minutes of summer

Seattle now home to even less than 78 minutes of summer
View of a cloudy Seattle on July 15, 2012. (Image courtesy: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency visibility camera.)

One year ago today, as Seattle was in the middle of a summer without much warmth, I published a blog counting the minutes Seattle had over 80 degrees as a way to quantify just how cool it had been, especially compared to the rest of the nation, which had come to learn the term "heat dome" and what days of 100+ degree weather was like.

The answer was 78 minutes, and it became a mantra of the summer.

I kept up with the count again this year due to popular demand, figuring for sure we'd easily surpass that mark by now. I mean, how can you really go less than about an hour of summer?

Guess what, Seattle. We did.

The number of minutes Seattle has been over 80 so far this year is 50 minutes.

That's according to the thermometer at the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Department which, unlike Sea-Tac Airport, keeps an actual minute-by-minute log of the weather station atop their roof on the Seattle campus.

And since the UW is in the heart of Seattle, while Sea-Tac Airport is more like the lower-left shin, I figure this could be an accurate representation of what a true Seattle person would have felt this summer. I chose 80 since that's what I figured most Seattleites would consider a truly warm, summer day.

We have hit that 80 mark just three times at UW, tallying 18 minutes on July 8, eight more minutes on July 11, and 24 on July 12. UW has yet to reach 81. (Sea-Tac has reached 83, but even at 83, this is the fourth-latest we've gone into a summer -- soon to be third latest -- at Sea-Tac without being warmer than 83 by this point.)

The tally wasn't meant as a complaint about our summers -- indeed, Seattle is unique in that there is a sizable percentage of the population who would be just fine if the tally always remained less than an episode of Grey's Anatomy. (There are cities this year that have gone nights where it didn't get under 80.) It was just a way to take our experiences of frequent clouds and infrequent trips to the beach and put it into something tangible. And I was quite surprised the number was less this year than last year.

But you know what? I'd think most Seattleites would feel that while this summer won't get any sunshine trophies, it hasn't been quite as "un-summer-like" as last year, although the statistics are somewhat similar between the two years:

From June 1 to July 17 2011 2012
  June July June July
No. of Sunny/Partly Cloudy/Cloudy days 1/20/9 4/3/10 0/15/15 5/8/4
No. of days with measurable rain 11 7 14 5
Days with highs warmer than 75° 2 7 2 10
Days with highs warmer than 80° 0 3 0 3
Average high temperature 67.6° 73.5° 65.7° 74.2°
Total Rainfall 1.42" 0.58" 2.96" 0.40"

(Note these stats are for Sea-Tac Airport which reports more parameters for their climate data than UW)

Maybe it's the fact that we've had a few more days over 75 this July (10 vs 7)?  Both July 1-17 periods had three days in the 80s, but this year has had five days between 77-79 (so close!) while 2011 just had one.

So, say, had I picked 77 instead of 80 as the measuring stick, 2012 would have a decent lead over 2011. Another telling statistic is that July 2011 had 10 overcast days while 2012 has had only 4 so far - meaning we've had more sunshine this year. It's also been quite muggy with the spate of thunderstorms this week, making it even feel warmer than the thermometer showed.

All this despite the fact that 2012's June was cooler and wetter than 2011's.

Or maybe it was our unprecedented streak of sunny weekends in March and April? It was a bit warmer this spring at times than last spring, so maybe we didn't have as much cumulative angst this year.

Or am I wrong? Does this summer feel even less summer-like than last year?

An informal poll on my Facebook page found that 58 percent of people think this summer is about the same, with 25 percent thinking it's better and the rest, even worse than 2011.

What do you think? Have we had more "summer" this year despite what the numbers say? Answer in the comment field below.

And I'll keep tracking each day's tally on Twitter @SummerMinutes. Last year, we did get some warmer weather later in the season, especially September, that brought the final total to a respectable 3,323 minutes. We'll see if 2012 can come from behind.

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