September 30, 2014

Minimum Temperature Heat Wave

September has really been remarkable over western Washington in one way:  the consistently high minimum temperatures.   I have mentioned this before, but it just doesn't end.  Here are the September temperatures at Sea-Tac Airport (yellow line) and the average max (red) and min (blue) based on climatology.  For every day but one, the minimum temperatures were above normal.  Many days in the last two weeks had minimum temps of 2-5F above normal.
Now this pattern is not limited to western Washington...take a look at a map of the average difference between climatology and the observed minimum temperature over the west during the past month.   Nearly the entire region had very high minima, with extensive regions being 2-6 F above normal.

The effects of these high minima have been clear in my vegetable garden.   Of great importance to me, my tomato plants are healthy and still producing.

So why have the minimum temps been so high?

First, we have had a very persistent area of low pressure offshore, with enhanced southerly flow on the western side of the low (see the map of the difference of sea level pressure from normal).   Remember that air goes counterclockwise around lows in the northern hemisphere.

In addition, the water over the eastern Pacific has been much warmer than normal-- the warm blob we have discussed a lot (see graphic).  In this map (SST differences from climatology over the past week), we see warm water (1.5-4C above normal) off the West Coast.   So southerly flow moving over warm water keeps us toasty at night.

We had a few rainy days, but that is over now and the daytime temperatures will surge again, but with a different pattern:  a major ridge of high pressure will form over the eastern Pacific.  Here is the forecast for Sunday at 5 AM PDT from the European Center.  Big ridge.  But it will get wet along the BC coast and there is a chance of some light shower on Saturday before the ridge amplifies on Sunday.   Want to be sure of the weekend weather...go south of Olympia.

And the 6-10 day forecast from Climate Prediction Center? Above normal over the western U.S. and colder than normal over the east.  This is looking a lot like the persistent pattern last winter.  Getting scary.


  1. Verrrrry interesting! I thought our friend the blob was going away, but it doesn't look like that now. I would love to see the East coast warm up in two weeks... I'll be back in D.C. mid-month and though they're having huge thunderstorms tonight, it would be awesome if they had some good, dry, leaf-crunching weather while I'm there. :-)

  2. So you are saying it is a go for Oktoberfest in Leavenworth this weekend....

  3. I know you have discussed it in the past, but how much of that higher minimum temperature do you think is due to the third runway? I noticed this summer during the long sunny days, that all three airports around here (SEA, BFI and RNT) had extremely high lows. I am much closer to the water, but they were all consistently 6-7 degrees warmer and only at night. Their temperatures would follow the same trend down as my station until a certain temp and then they would plateau at that temp the rest of the night while mine (and most other PWS) would continue down to a minimum just prior to sunrise.
    So curious if the string of high minimums has more to do with warming of the tarmac around our official weather stations and less to do with actual higher lows. It seems that most PWS are showing lower lows each night.

  4. Both USDA and Sunset's book on western gardening show a 10F rise in minimum winter temperature. At one time western Lewis County had a usual minimum of 0-10F, now it seems to be 12-18F. This is over a 40 year time span. I do not know that this is accurate or not.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

Thunderstorms Return to the Northwest

 Thunderstorms have been relatively rare this summer, but today will see some boomers over the Cascades and eastern Washington. In fact, the...