Jul 26, 2022 - News

Extreme heat hits Seattle area

Illustration of a thermometer shaped like an upwards arrow, with the mercury rising.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The National Weather Service in Seattle upgraded its "heat advisory" to an "excessive heat warning" for Western Washington early Tuesday, with record-breaking temperatures in the low- to mid-90s arriving by the afternoon and expected to last until the week's end.

  • At 94 degrees, Seattle set a new record high Tuesday for July 26. New high marks also were set in Olympia (97) and Bellingham (90), per the NWS.

Why it matters: It's not so much the 90-degree days, but the duration of this heat wave that is raising concerns about the potential for heat-related health risks, according to meteorologists in NWS Seattle's field office.

  • With higher-than-usual low temperatures also expected in the mid-60s this week, elderly and other vulnerable residents may not feel the typical cooling overnight, per the NWS.

What they're saying: "This is our warmest time of year typically, so it's not unheard of to have temperatures in the 90s," said NWS-Seattle meteorologist Mary Butwin. "It's not necessarily the heat itself that worries us, but how long it sticks around."

  • Under the latest forecasts, high temperatures on Friday and Saturday may not crack the 90-degree mark, but are likely to climb at least into the high-80s, Butwin said.

Context: The average temperature for the Seattle area this time of year is 78 degrees. The record temperature for July 26 was 92, set in 2018.

  • The record for consecutive days of 90+ degree highs in Seattle is five, reached twice — in 2015 and 1981.
  • The highest temperatures forecast for Western Washington this week — in the mid- to high-90s — were expected for Lewis County in southwest Washington, Butwin said.
  • In Eastern Washington, the Yakima area broke triple-digits on Tuesday, per the NWS in Spokane.

Yes, but: Seattle forecasters expect several successive hot days, "but certainly nothing as hot as last year," Butwin said.

  • Last year's scorching temperatures from late June to early July, including a 108-degree day — Seattle's hottest ever recorded — resulted in 100 deaths, per the Department of Health.

Our thought bubble, via Axios climate reporter Andrew Freedman: Global warming is increasing the odds of heat waves and making them more intense and longer-lasting, studies show.

  • For example, a study concluded last year's record-shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest would have been "virtually impossible" without global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
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