Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Searing, prolonged heat targeting the Pacific Northwest

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Summer is in full swing across much of the United States as dry conditions take hold and the sun scorches.

After managing to avoid the worst that Mother Nature has to offer for most of the summer, forecasters at AccuWeather say the time has come for the Northwest United States to fester amid unseasonably hot weather.

A high pressure area will extend across the Pacific Northwest for much of the coming week, making dry and hot conditions the norm for many in the region.

“This high pressure will set the stage for an extended period of well-above-normal temperatures,” warned AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bauer.

High temperatures will increase steadily by a handful of degrees daily across much of the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia, Canada, from the end of this weekend well into next week. Toward the middle of the week, temperatures are expected to rise 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

In Seattle, the highs will range from the mid 80s to the low 90s for much of the coming week. The heat is likely to peak on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Temperatures will be much higher in valley towns like Yakima and Omak, Washington. For cities in the Washington and Oregon valleys, mercury will peak in the upper 90s or low 100s F for much of the coming week. In the valleys, Wednesday and Thursday are likely to be the hottest days of the week.

Off the coast, much of the northwest will remain elevated for a considerable length of time.

Highs will be in the 90s every day in Portland, Oregon Sunday through August 1. The city typically hits the low 80s in late July, so the magnitude and longevity of the heat will be of particular concern.

Fortunately, the severity of the heat at the end of July will not match the dangerous, deadly heat wave of June 2021.

Just over a year ago, the Northwest set all-time records when a blistering heatwave developed in late June 2021. During this historic weather event, the Washington state record was set on June 29, 2021 with a high of 120 F in the small community of Hanford, south-central Washington. Oregon’s state record of 119, previously set at multiple locations, was set at Pelton Dam, located about 90 miles southeast of Portland.

The June 2021 heatwave brought extreme temperatures to the coasts of Washington, British Columbia and northern Oregon. Seattle set an all-time record high on June 28, 2021 when the mercury hit 108, while Portland also set an all-time record that day with a temperature of 116. Meteorologists say temperatures forecast for much of the north-west coast next week will fall well short of the incredibly high readings seen last June.

While highs during the upcoming North West heatwave may fall short of records in most places, above-average temperatures for an extended period will take the heat into dangerous territory for some residents and visitors alike.

Experts warn that the potential for dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke will increase dramatically, especially for those engaged in rigorous exercise and physical labor. People are urged to drink plenty of fluids and take breaks from the heat whenever possible.

The Coastal Northwest is well below the national average when it comes to the number of air-conditioned homes in the region. The lack of air conditioning can make dealing with heat waves difficult and even dangerous for some individuals, such as young children, the elderly and those with health conditions. According to USAFacts.org, less than half of Seattle homes have air conditioning, compared to the national average of 90.

As temperatures rise and the likelihood of precipitation remains minimal, Bauer says soil and scrub will dry out significantly during the heat wave.

“The heatwave will dry up fuels as the region enters the peak of wildfire season,” Bauer said.

Spring to early summer precipitation was average to above average over much of the Northwest. Adequate rainfall and near-average temperatures have so far helped keep fuels moist. But this combination has also allowed for the growth of more grass and shrubs, which can become additional sources of wildfire ignition as vegetation dries up later in the summer.

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