Monday, June 28, 2021

Greetings from the Apocalypse

Sunrise this morning over downtown Seattle

I lived in Seattle from 1989 to 1995.  It was a great time in my life and I thoroughly enjoyed the mild climate, especially the cool, dry summers.

In 1989, the all-time record maximum temperature at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, known as SeaTac, was 99˚F. and it was great to boast about the region's natural air conditioning.

In 1994, they reached 100˚F for the first time.  Then in 2009, 103˚F.  Still, those were the only two days in the triple digits since record keeping began at SeaTac in 1945.  

A few weeks ago, we committed to going up to Seattle for a few days to cool down, a prospect that seems laughable now.  We drove across the Cascades on Saturday and enjoyed a view of the great snow scoop in the sky, Mt. Rainier, from the top of Crystal Mountain.

It looks innocent enough in pictures, but temperatures that afternoon reached 102˚F at SeaTac as we pulled into town.  

The evening forecast on KOMO news seemed preposterous.  106 on Sunday.  113 on Monday!  Even for a meteorologist who was looking at remarkable warmth in our computer models, that was shoking.  

Yesterday SeaTac didn't quite get to 106˚F, but it did get to 104˚F, breaking their all-time record.  Insane, but we were able to spend the day on my brother-in-law's boat on Lake Washington, a luxury that we feel fortunate to have had.  

We'll see where things end up today.  At noon, it was 102˚F at SeaTac.  It's worth noting that the dewpoint is also 62˚F, not as high as one might find in a heat wave on the east coast, but still enough to add to the discomfort.  

There tend to be sharp contrasts in temperature between inland areas and coastal areas next to the Puget Sound in situations like this.  How high SeaTac will get today will strongly depend on the local flows.  I'm not sure they will make it to 110, but they might come close and some inland locations to the east probably will.  With temperatures in the 90s even in the mountain passes, we're essentially taking a down day and laying low. 


  1. Who knew that the Steenburgh effect works for summer too? Compared to the beginning of June, late last week and this weekend were simply sublime in Northern Utah. Even now is pretty good.

    In all seriousness, this heatwave is very dangerous and I have a lot of concerns for my friends and family in the region. The infrastructure will certainly be stressed; hopefully it is up to the task.

    Any thoughts as to why the all time record at SLC is 107, but places north like Bozeman, MT which is higher elevation and further north have hit 109 and now SeaTac, PDX, etc. have blown past SLC's record? Dumb luck or is there something that has kept SLC from these numbers?

    1. Yeah, this is a perverse version of the Steenburgh effect for summer.

      Concerning insanity, I think Lytton, BC reached 49.6˚C (121˚F), which I think is the highest temperature ever recorded north of 45˚N. Sadly, the town is now threatened by wildfire.


  2. The all-time record high in Bozeman is 106° (in 2007).