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Weathercatch: In summertime, we’re the driest of them all

Davi Sobotta holds up her hands as she tries out the last, large tabletop fan available at a Home Depot hardware store ahead of an expected heat wave Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Seattle. An excessive heat warning for the area began Tuesday afternoon and continues through Friday evening, as unusually hot weather will bring temperatures nearing a peak of 100 degrees on Thursday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Davi Sobotta holds up her hands as she tries out the last, large tabletop fan available at a Home Depot hardware store ahead of an expected heat wave Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Seattle. An excessive heat warning for the area began Tuesday afternoon and continues through Friday evening, as unusually hot weather will bring temperatures nearing a peak of 100 degrees on Thursday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

“There’s some seriously weird weather out there.” So says a recent Weather.com story, referring to near-record cool temperatures in New England, golf ball-size hail in Minneapolis and heavy downpours triggering flash floods in Kansas.

All this, in late July.

But here in the Inland Northwest – rather, in all of the Pacific Northwest – it’s a much different story. As usual, most of our region’s summer has been a breeze.

The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for being rain-drenched. We’re going to bust that myth with the fact that, in summertime, we are typically the driest, most comfortable region in the entire U.S.

In August, average rainfall in cities looks like this: Denver, 1.7 inches; Chicago, 4.12; and Miami, 8.9. Scorching Phoenix? 1.02 inches.

At 0.56, Spokane is even drier than the desert Southwest.

The last day it rained here was June 28 and now we’ve entered August, historically the driest time of year. Also, if you’ve been following the Seattle news, you know the Emerald City is on track to break its record of 51 consecutive days without measurable rainfall. (A light drizzle last Thursday morning produced only a trace.)

That’s dry.

We also enjoy low humidity. If you’ve ever spent part of August in Dallas or Delaware, you know that high humidity levels make the air feel steamy and hotter than it really is. Here in the Pacific Northwest, heat waves are toned down by low water-vapor concentrations in the air. So is the potential for thunderstorms, hailstorms and tornadoes.

And one more thing, thanks to the dryness, our nights cool down after scorcher days. On Aug. 4, 1961, the temperature rocketed to 108 degrees in Spokane. That night, it dropped to a pleasant 68.

Sorry, Weather Channel, but “seriously weird” doesn’t apply to summertime here.

Relatively speaking, we call it comfortable.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: linda.weiford@wsu.edu or nicholas.loyd@wsu.edu.


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