Friday, August 10, 2012

July in the Rearview

Most across the Lower 48 are glad that July is done and clinging to hope that August does not offer up more of the same. July turned out to be the warmest month on record, ever! The contiguous U.S. averaged a monthly temperature of 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit and that became the warmest month since records began in 1895. Below is a map distributed by NOAA that puts the heat into context.

Well over 50% of the U.S. saw a July for the record books. Most of the Midwest and Mississippi River Valley saw a Top 10 warmest July. Virginia is the only state that hit it's warmest July ever, seven other states saw their second warmest July on record. The heat can be contributed to a persistent upper level heat ridge that locked into place. That is typical for the summer months, but it doesn't often last as long as it has this year. With record heat comes record drought. Over 60% of the Lower 48 are seeing extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

While the eastern 2/3rds of the country baked, the West Coast saw dealt with comfortable temperatures. That's no surprise considering Portland just hit our first 90+ degree day just last week! Notice that Oregon is under the "Above Normal" category. A lot of that was contributed to Central and Eastern Oregon heat. The Beaver State also saw the largest wildfire in the state since 1840! The Long Draw Fire in Southeast Oregon burned 560,000 acres!

More locally, the July forecast report is in! With a forecast for 18 days, my temperature accuracy finished at 77% while conditions came in at an 83% clip. We saw a few days of thunderstorms and several days of morning clouds followed by afternoon sun. That pattern is typical of summer when the landmass cools off quicker than nearby ocean. When the air coming off the Pacific Ocean moves over land, it cools and condenses into a cloud. Those clouds travel down the Columbia River as well as find the low-level gaps in the Coastal mountain range and seep into the metro area each morning. Once the strong summer sun heats the atmosphere, the air mixes down to the low levels, breaking up the clouds and giving us pleasant afternoons. The Cascade Mountains are enough to block the low-level clouds from moving into the central and eastern portion of the state. Those clouds, known as the "marine layer" can bust a forecast in a hurry! It is just another facet of Pacific Northwest forecasting!

August has begun and we are in the midst of a 3-week dry stretch! However, I'm looking ahead about a month to my big wedding day! September 3rd feels far away yet it will sneak right up. We have access to a long range model here at the station. By long range, I mean 10-50 days into the future! So here is a sneak peak at the September 3rd forecast:

Things look dry and that's all I can ask for! Of course we are 24 days away and you MUST take this model with a grain of salt. I'll be monitoring how the model changes and once the Big Day is within reach of short range models I'll be updating you on that as well!

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