Sometimes it feels as if we live in a weather bubble here in the Inland Northwest. News of deadly heat waves, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and blizzards seem like a daily occurrence on television. But it’s always in some other part of the country. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This weather “bubble” idea got another boost when I read the latest weather headlines from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While we were shivering and plants were freezing during what seemed like an especially cold June, apparently the rest of the country was baking. Temperature data show the U.S. as a whole experienced the eighth-warmest June on record! Across the entire U.S., only the Northwest had below normal average temperatures last month. More specifically, only Washington and Oregon had below-normal temperatures. Or perhaps it was just Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, which were so cold that our numbers skewed the data for the rest of the region (I don’t have the data to back up that particular idea).
This past week’s dust/wind storm and subsequent outbreak of fires hopefully has reminded people that we are in the midst of fire weather season. Despite having such a cold wet June, it doesn’t take a very long period of warm, dry weather to ripen the fuels that can feed wildfires. Winds from 35 to 55 mph blanketed the region the afternoon of July 12 after the passage of a particularly strong cold front. Fortunately, we did not have to deal with the added danger of dry lightning with the storm system, but the sheer number of fire starts shows that under those conditions, it doesn’t take much – a spark from any source – to result in a dangerous wildfire.
The threat for wildfires continues into the months of August, and many times September, as we usually see our driest and warmest periods of the year. Despite the fact that daylight hours have been decreasing since shortly after the summer solstice in late June, average temperatures will continue to rise until the end of this month, peaking and holding steady until the first week of August. The peak average high and low temperatures for Spokane are 85 and 56 degrees respectively (with similar numbers for Coeur d’Alene).