But it is not the kind of heat wave that will cause a rush to emergency rooms or enhance air conditioning sales. It is a heat wave in our minimum temperatures.
In fact, this kind of heat wave got a lot of attention earlier this summer after the release of a paper by the UW State Climate Office on an increase in frequency in minimum heat waves (information here). My own take on this was that some of this increase was due to issues with nighttime observations at some stations, but clarification about this issue will come from further research here at the UW.
But there is no doubt we are in a major minimum heat wave event right now. But why?
First, some documentation. Take a look at the temperatures over the past 12 weeks at Seattle, Olympia, and Everett. The blue lines shows the average low temperatures. Over the two weeks most days' minima have been well above the average low temperatures--we are talking 5-10F.
The complaints and wailings about the high minima have become so loud and persistent that the National Weather Service has put out a special statement on this issue and their findings are sobering.
A number of local stations have broken daily records for record high minima. More impressively, some locations, such as Seattle-Tacoma Airport and Olympia have observed an ALL TIME RECORD NUMBER OF AUGUST DAYS ABOVE 60F. We are living in historic times.
So why so warm? A key has been the unusually high dew points for the region. Normally, we should be down in the 40s or low 50s, but for several days we have sat in the lower to mid 60s. which is quite unusual for this area. Take a look at the dew points this morning...many have reached the mid-60s. (remember dew point is an excellent measure of the amount of water vapor in a sample of air, relative humidity is not)
In fact, a plot of dew point for the past six months, show that we are now "enjoying" the highest values so far this year:
A perfect dew point storm. But I suspect there won't be a movie about it.
And one final thing...Thursday is the first day of serious rain over the region. Fortunately, Saturday and Sunday will bring great weather...and completely dry.