By Linda Weiford, WSU News
“At 3.9 degrees above-normal average temperatures, 2015 surpassed the hot Dust Bowl’s record year of 1934 by 0.9 degrees,” he said, adding that last year’s average temperature in Washington was 50 degrees, compared to its yearly average of 46.1.
Loyd’s comments come on the heels of a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzing data going back to 1895. Oregon, Montana and Florida experienced a record year of warmth as well, according to the agency. Idaho, California and Alaska had their second warmest year (see https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/).
Much of the boost in the Pacific Northwest came during an unprecedented heat wave in June, when temperatures in many locations ran roughly 25 degrees above normal. February, March, July and October also saw warmer-than-usual temperatures, said Loyd, who monitors weather data for WSU’s AgWeatherNet, a network of 171 weather stations statewide.
“The consistency of abnormal warmth throughout the year was remarkable,” he said.
A super-charged El Nino weather pattern and a persistent “monster ridge” of high pressure parked over the Pacific Northwest were big contributors, he explained. The high-altitude ridge blocked cooler and wetter weather from entering the region. At the same time, El Nino, a natural, periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that releases heat into the atmosphere, brought more heat and dryness.
“Although El Nino typically brings rainfall to central and southern California, it can result in warmer weather and less precipitation across the Pacific Northwest,” said Loyd.
A ray of good news as we enter 2016: A recent parade of storms over the Cascade Mountain Range has dumped enough snow to significantly curb drought conditions that plagued the region in 2015.
“In one month, the amount of snow that fell is higher than what we got all of last winter,” Loyd explained.