Heat Index

Is This Seattle’s Hottest Summer Ever?

Don’t pack up the fans. It’s not over yet.

By Taylor McKenzie Gerlach August 17, 2022

A wide shot of the beach at Golden Gardens in Ballard.

Reminder: A Golden Gardens breeze is natural air conditioning.

Another heat advisory period has rolled into Seattle, one more sticky stretch in a long chain of high temperatures this summer, and many locals are, predictably, not thrilled. When FOX 13 meteorologist Abby Acone polled Twitter about the week’s impending heat, the city’s central air holdouts reconsidered life choices (“I need AC”); another dropped a Ron Swanson “God help me” gif. This is where we’re at.

But while we’re here, we might see some records fall. If Thursday’s high—projected to reach 90—touches 89 or above, it would break the 88-degree high mark for August 18. More notably, if Wednesday and Thursday both rise into the 90s, this summer would tie the record for the most days of at least 90 degrees—12, set back in 2015.

We already saw the longest recorded stretch of consecutive 90-plus days in July. Few can remember that days in the 80s sandwiched the 100-degree scorchers during the Heat Dome last summer. Which raises the question: Is this actually Seattle’s hottest summer ever?

Finding an objective way to crown Seattle’s hottest summer is as difficult as searching for a weekend parking spot at Golden Gardens. “There are a couple of ways to slice this,” KOMO meteorologist Shannon O’Donnell explains. Looking at the highest recorded temperatures, last summer takes the (rapidly melting ice cream) cake. But measuring by the number of days topping out over 80 or 90, this year could make it into the running.

Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist at the local National Weather Service branch, doubts this summer will merit any superlatives, despite breaking some records. It’s not just about setting new marks, Kristell explains; experts also account for the amount by which records are broken. Last summer’s heat wave was a prime example, where previous highs were “absolutely blown out of the water.” The high pressure system that gave birth to the infamous Heat Dome was much stronger than anything we’ve seen this summer. Inching past by a degree or two doesn't mean we're overtaking 2021, or even 2015. “I think this one is definitely going to fall short of the hottest summer,” Kristell says.

O'Donnell isn’t ready to write this season off. There’s still plenty of time to rack up more 90-plus degree days, she notes. Based on her calculations, we’re in for more hot and dry weather through the end of the month.

Given that forecast, heat-related illness and fires remain a major concern. That long, rainy spring isn’t doing us any favors now: Kristell notes that this summer’s heat has dried out most of the vegetation susceptible to ignition across the area, rendering it “ready to go” for quick flare-ups kindled by human activity or lightning strikes.

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