Apr 25, 2024 - News

Seattle could see a long, hot summer, new forecast shows

Illustration of a thermometer shaped like an upwards arrow, with the mercury rising.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Seattle is likely to face a hotter-than-usual summer, according to new forecasts and research.

Why it matters: Over 80% of Seattleites live on heat islands, per a 2023 data analysis by the nonprofit climate research group Climate Central.

Driving the news: A recently released NOAA climate outlook for July through September shows the chances for hotter-than-average conditions are highest across a swath of land that includes Texas, the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the Northeast.

  • The West is also projected to see below-average rainfall, which could raise wildfire risks.

The intrigue: One wild card this summer will be exactly where persistent areas of high pressure, also known as heat domes, set up. That will determine the areas that see some of the hottest conditions.

Threat level: A drought declaration covering most of Washington state was issued on April 15, interim state climatologist Karin Bumbaco told Axios.

  • While Seattle, Tacoma and Everett are not currently included in it, that could change with a shift to warmer and drier conditions, she said.
  • Unusually low soil moisture in Western Washington has been recorded in the last 30 to 60 days as well, she said.

The big picture: An El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean is quickly fading, with ocean temperatures cooling at and beneath the surface.

  • Michelle L'Heureux, who leads the forecasting unit that predicts El Niño and La Niña at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Maryland, told Axios that other climate trends — including human-caused climate change — may outrank the seesaw from El Niño to La Niña as the dominant driver of U.S. summer temperature anomalies.

What we're watching: State Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Ryan Rodruck told Axios the department is expecting a "normal wildfire season," though it is staffing up and allocating resources as if it will be a challenging one.

  • "Our fire meteorologist has been telling us he is expecting a wet June," said Rodruck, which could lead to fuel growth.
  • How quickly it cures and dries, though, "will be up to Mother Nature."

What's next: The National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are rolling out an experimental heat forecast tool that can give health guidance up to seven days in advance.

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