The Inland Northwest baked in the first serious heat wave of the season this week, with Wednesday’s high of 94 breaking the record set at 92 in 1937.
But astronomically speaking, there’s a problem. It’s still spring.
The hot temperatures gripping our region are exceptional indeed for this time of year. In the Spokane area, the normal high is about 72 degrees. With mercury poised to surge again into the 90s on Thursday, the region has been running more than 20 degrees above normal. Not only does this mark the first significant heat event of 2021, but it’s among the earliest heat waves experienced in Spokane.
Last weekend was warm, but the real heat began building on Memorial Day, when the high temperature reached 86 degrees in Spokane while the overnight low into Tuesday notched at 60. Both were atypical for late spring. Then came the bigger leap extending from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday, with highs exceeding 90 degrees and even 100 degrees in some parts of the Inland Northwest, including Moses Lake and Lewiston-Clarkston.
In the eastern half of Washington state, heat advisories were issued from Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities to as far north as Omak. “Hot temperatures and early season heat may cause heat illnesses to occur,” the National Weather Service warned.
Records tumbled as people sought shady spots outdoors and turned on their fans and air conditioners indoors to get through a heat wave that rarely comes so early in the season. The National Weather Service describes a heat wave as a period of abnormally high temperatures lasting more than two days in a row.
What caused this robust hot spell? A strong, sunny high-pressure ridge in the upper levels of the atmosphere that strengthened over the Pacific Northwest and a swath of Western states.
Triple-digit heat engulfed Northern California from Redding to Sacramento, along with southwestern Oregon, southern Idaho and parts of Nevada.
As the high-pressure ridge begins to push eastward, Thursday’s temperatures will be toasty as well, followed by a dip to the low-to-mid 80s Friday and a refreshing mid-70s on Saturday. The lowest temperatures are expected on Sunday, with highs in the mid-60s. Mostly sunny skies and some breeziness will continue.
Which is far closer to normal for the opening days of June…