Weathercatch: Hot, hazy, smoky weather persists

Person walking down road at sunset with camera and tripod over shoulder.
Scorching weather on Aug. 9 drove people to postpone outdoor activities until evening. (WSU Photo Services)

By Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU News

For two taxing days last week, our region withered under record-breaking temperatures.

Cautioning the public of a “prolonged period of dangerously hot temperatures,” the National Weather Service issued multiple advisories across northcentral and eastern Washington for Aug. 9-10. Not only did we brace ourselves against an extreme heat warning, but also an air quality alert and a red flag warning associated with increased wildfire danger.

From a sweltering 111 degrees in Lewiston-Clarkston to 105 in Pullman, records burned, courtesy of a strong ridge of high pressure and airflow from the Southwest.

Spokane’s high temperature clocked in at 103 degrees on Aug. 9, tying the record for that date set back in 1898.

As you well know, smoke added misery to the heat. With numerous wildfires burning in the West and British Columbia, microscopic particles from burning wood and vegetation settled in a stagnant air mass above us. The murky haze that obscured normally bright skies irritated people’s eyes.

Hurray! Then came the weekend, when daytime temperatures dropped as much as 25 degrees. Strong breezes and patchy clouds rolled into the region as well, giving us relief from heat and wildfire smoke.

But the break didn’t last long. Blazing sun returned this week, with Tuesday kicking off a string of upper 80s to 90-plus degree days.

During the weekend, 180 lightning strikes sparked new wildfires in Washington, according to the Boise-based Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. What’s more, strong winds fanned the flames of existing blazes.

All of which means, smoky hot weather is back. Expect haze to mute our skies and high temperatures to rise into the 90s and low 100s through this weekend.

As for September? Perhaps we’ll finally get a little rain to nourish our brown lawns. Expect the month to be slightly less parched than August, but still warm overall.

Closeup of Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford.Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek.

 

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