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Pacific Northwest continues to bake beneath ‘heat dome’

  • MARK GRAVES/THE OREGONIAN VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                While Portland reached a record temperature of over 110 degrees, Sunday, people gathered at Salmon Street Springs water fountain in Portland to cool off.

    MARK GRAVES/THE OREGONIAN VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    While Portland reached a record temperature of over 110 degrees, Sunday, people gathered at Salmon Street Springs water fountain in Portland to cool off.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Two people jumped from a pedestrian bridge at Lake Union Park into the water during a heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest, Sunday, in Seattle.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Two people jumped from a pedestrian bridge at Lake Union Park into the water during a heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest, Sunday, in Seattle.

The heat dome that settled over the Pacific Northwest over the weekend, shattering records in Portland and Salem, Oregon, will linger for at least another day, with temperatures expected to reach the upper 90s by this afternoon, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service issued another excessive-heat warning today for much of Washington state and Oregon that will remain in effect until Sunday. Forecasters predicted that temperatures would remain unseasonably hot into next week.

But a wave of cool ocean air provided a measure of relief overnight, with temperatures falling into the 60s in Portland and Seattle early this morning.

In Portland, the temperature fell to 64 from a record high of 116 Monday afternoon, a difference of 52 degrees and a record overnight drop for the city, the weather service said. In Salem, one of the cities hardest hit by the heat wave, temperatures dropped 56 degrees, to 61 from 117. The average overnight temperature drop for Portland is 20 to 30 degrees, the weather service said.

But this was only a break from the heat, not long-term relief, forecasters said.

In Portland, temperatures will rebound into the upper 90s Tuesday and highs will reach the mid-80s later in the week, said Clinton Rockey, meteorologist with the weather service in Portland. Temperatures will still be 10 to 20 degrees above average at least until next Tuesday.

“That said, it’s a heck of a lot better than being 30 to 40 degrees above normal,” Rockey said.

While tying a single heat wave to climate change requires extensive attribution analysis, heat waves around the world are growing more frequent, longer lasting and more dangerous. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing. And the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. Also, the season for heat waves has stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, according to the report.

It is all part of an overall warming trend: The seven warmest years in the history of accurate worldwide record-keeping have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000; worldwide, June 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded, and June 2020 essentially tied it.

Last year tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to one analysis.

The oppressive heat that settled in the Pacific Northwest was the result of a wide and deep mass of high-pressure air that, because of a wavy jet stream, parked itself over much of the region. Known as a heat dome, such an enormous high-pressure zone acts like a lid, trapping heat so it accumulates.

Matthew Cullen, weather service meteorologist in Seattle, said Tuesday should be the last day of extreme heat in that city, with temperatures expected to hit 95 degrees, 20 degrees hotter than normal.

“The much bigger thing for us is that low temperatures are dropping well into the 60s,” Cullen said. “While that is slightly above normal, it allows people to open windows, clear out the hot air and cool down their homes overnight. When we don’t have those cooler overnight temperatures, that’s when things become really dangerous for a lot of folks out here.”

The overnight cooling came from what is known as a marine push, when a wave of ocean air replaces a hot air mass, lowers temperatures and raises humidity, according to the weather service. In addition to a cooling effect, the marine air can also help create more cloud cover, providing some shade and making heat waves more “manageable,” Cullen said.

In a region where many people do not have air conditioning, such drastic temperature drops can help ventilate homes that were built to retain heat. According to the weather service in Seattle, another marine push is expected to move inland tonight.

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