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West Coast Heatwave On The Way

Steve Pierce weather blog update mug

As first mentioned in my article on June 10th (15 days ago) it now appears likely that the western half of the country is about to bake under what could be a record setting heatwave. Models are coming into better agreement this morning for a significant heatwave across much of the west starting this Thursday and lasting into early next week. At this point in time there is the potential for seeing temperatures approaching 130 degrees in Death Valley which would be just a few degrees shy of the all-time world record highest temperature ever recorded for any location on earth. The old world record of 136 degrees recorded in Libya back in 1922 was found to be incorrect and the torch (literally) has now been passed to Death Valley, CA. that reached 134 degrees in 1913. Could Death Valley challenge this temperature once again? It could be close! At the present time, models are suggesting they will be pushing 130 degrees later this week. What’s a few degrees between friends, right?

So, the big question remains, how hot will it get here in the Pacific Northwest? It will all depend on exactly where the ridge sets up. Today’s Euro and GFS models now place the center of the ridge directly over Portland and Seattle Sunday through Tuesday with hot offshore flow aloft and near the surface. If this were to verify, temperatures could easily approach 100 degrees. This would be rare for this early in the season. Only a handful of days before July 4th have passed 100 degrees in Portland history. Record daily high temperatures for Portland in the first few days of July are all in the upper 90’s so we could end up challenging these if the models continue their recent trend of hotter and hotter with each run. Here is today’s 12z Euro model run which shows a blistering ridge parked right over the Willamette Valley early next week. The Euro shows temperatures at 850mb’s (about 5,400 ft above sea level) at nearly +28c. The GFS model shows a staggering +30c at the same time. These models also produce surface temps of 113 degrees for Portland and Vancouver. Is this likely to happen just as modeled? Not likely. That would be in the “off the charts” territory.

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Now, this is only one model run, but there is a trend developing here that is clearly moving in the HOT direction. It is worth noting that I have never seen models producing upper air temperatures like this so early in the year in the 20+ years I have been tracking and forecasting Pac NW weather. In fact, if we were to see 850mb temps of +30c, as suggested by the GFS and +28c by the Euro, those set ups have the potential to challenge the great August 1981 and July 2009 heatwaves. Portland baked at 107 degrees twice in August of 1981 under 850mb temps of about +27c, which stands to this day as the hottest temp ever recorded in Portland. July 29th 2009 saw a high of 106 in Portland under 850mb temps of +25c. Vancouver, WA reached 108 on the same day in 2009 setting its all-time record high temp. Records date back to about 1891 in Vancouver. What will the final outcome be this time? We shall see. Either way, this has the makings of a significant heatwave for the west coast. However, the exact details are still a few days away for us here in the Pac NW. A slight shift in the position of the ridge can make a lot of difference for us. This much is certain, you can say goodbye to showers and temps in the 60’s. They will quickly be replaced with sunshine and temps in the 80’s to near 90 by the weekend and possibly another 10 degrees warmer early next week. Get out those shorts and prime that pool for some swimming! If you don’t have a pool, make friends with someone who does. You may just need it!

Stay tuned!

Steve Pierce, President
Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS)

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Steve Pierce

Steve Pierce

Steve Pierce is widely known as Oregon and Washington's "go-to-guy" when it comes to fast, accurate historical meteorological research and forecasts. Steve is currently the President of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Steve is also recognized as a regional weather commentator and blogger who can be heard on local radio stations and seen in print media outlets across the Pacific Northwest. His Weather Blog is hosted by the Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Check it out! He is a third generation resident of Vancouver, Washington and holds a degree in Communications. Both sets of Steve's grandparents migrated to Vancouver during World War II. One set traveled from Lenox, Iowa to work in the Kaiser Shipyards supporting the war effort. The other set came to Vancouver from Olympia, Washington to work as educators for the rapidly expanding Vancouver School District. When the war was over, both sets of grandparents decided to stay in Vancouver and continue raising their families, as did thousands of other families at the time. Those who are most familiar with Steve can attest to the fact that weather is his true passion. His love for "all things weather" began at the age of 7 when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980. He was fascinated with which direction the ash plumes were headed. Then came the very powerful windstorm of Friday, November 13, 1981, also referred to as the "Friday the 13th" storm. This was the strongest storm to hit the Portland / Vancouver area since the great Columbus Day Storm of 1962! At age 11, he was asked to publish an extended weather forecast for his elementary school's weekly newsletter. In the 1980's, at age 14, Steve was the youngest of KGW-TV's local "weather watchers" and would phone in his daily Vancouver weather stats to then television meteorologist Jim Little for use on-air. Steve has lived through all of the major Pacific Northwest weather events of the past 30 years, and then some. The most notable events include; the bitterly cold winter of 1978-1979, the record setting snow storms of January 1980, the summer heat wave of August 1981, the windstorms of November 1981 and December 1995, the severe arctic blast of February 1989, the record flood of February 1996, the historic ice storm of January 2004, the Vancouver tornado of January 2008 and the record setting snow storm of Christmas 2008. Not to mention every Mt. St. Helens volcanic eruption in between. With access to the most extensive set of historical weather records available to date, Steve has personally designed and integrated a proprietary system that gives him the ability to quickly locate and manipulate weather data as far back as the 1800's. As one local Meteorologist put it, "Steve has fast access to historical weather data that is needed for media, agriculture, business, personal, historical and other climatological needs. He can quickly manipulate the data in many different ways. His forecasts are also quite accurate, especially at longer lead times." Steve also provides local storm assessments, narratives and weather presentations to the general public, as requested. In his spare time, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, the outdoors, vacationing at his family's coastal cabin and just relaxing! By the way, do you like your weather on the "extreme" side? So does Steve! Whether it is collecting damage assessment data & photos after record setting 125 mph winds at the coast in December 2007, being one of the first on the scene after the January 2008 Vancouver tornado, or feeling (literally) the awesome power of 100 mph wind gusts at Oregon's Crown Point in January 2010, Steve has experienced it all! As Steve says, "don't just love weather, live weather!" Check out Steve's personal weather website at: http://www.piercevideo.com/weather.shtml