If Seattle has felt unusually hot this summer it's not just you—we're in the midst of a record breaking heat wave. We've just tied the record for the most days above 85 degrees Fahrenheit ever, and with plenty of August left, we're likely to blow past that previous record.
The previous record was set last year, underscoring how what feels unusually hot right now might be Seattle's new normal under climate change.
After yesterday’s 89-degree day, Seattle has now had 27 days of above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Joe Zagrodnik, a meteorologist and PhD candidate at the University of Washington. And we still have plenty of summer left.
“The record is going to get smashed this year, most likely. We should go above 30 [days] for sure. That’s a whole month of hot summer days above 85 degrees, which is pretty crazy.”
Seattle historically has averaged only 11 days above 85 degrees, less than half of this year's 27 days so far. And three of the last four summers have crossed that 85-degree line a record number of times. That's a pretty clear indication that we now have a new normal for summer heat.
“It’s definitely a sign that we are starting to see impacts of climate change, at least in terms of warmer summers,” Zagrodnik said.
Seattle has historically followed natural shifts between warmer and cooler summers, depending on weather patterns like El Niño, La Niña, and a longer-term pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. But Seattle’s streak of record-breaking summers over the last four years is a clear indication that our climate is getting warmer on top of natural long-term patterns, according to Zagrodnik.
“The fact that we’re seeing a couple of years in a row well above the previous highs in those oscillations suggests that we are starting to see the climate change signal on top of those other variances that might have explained warm summers in the past.”
Zagrdnik, who studies how the Olympic Mountains modify precipitation patterns, said these records show us climate change is no longer just a theory, we’re already living in a changed climate.
“Three of the last four summers were all among the warmest that have been recorded in Seattle, that’s a pretty big wake-up call that it’s no longer talking about the future, the future is becoming the present,” Zagrodnik said.
Climate change models predicted that Seattle’s summers would become hotter and drier and our winters will become wetter, according to Zagrodnik. And what has happened for the last few years? Exactly that.
“Interestingly, that is exactly what climate models predict for climate change in Seattle,” Zagrodnik said. “That we will have wetter winters and dryer, warm summer which is exactly what we’re seeing. So this year is a preview of what will be more commonplace in the future.”
These record-breaking summers are going to make it harder for American conservatives to bury their heads in the hot sand and deny climate change, but I’m confident they will find a way to ignore all evidence and continue arguing that our climate isn't changing.
Perhaps Republicans won’t quit their climate change lie until, as Charles Mudede tells us, white people start dying.
And then it might be too late.