Under the weather: First heat wave of year expected over weekend

Be careful what you wish for!

Up to this point, the main weather complaint I’ve heard regarding weather is that people wished that it would start to warm up. After all, we’ve only had two 70-degree days on the books at Paine Field this year, both of which occurred at the end of April.

Climatologically, this actually isn’t too much out of the ordinary, which can be seen in the graphic below.

Using data from each year since 1999, Paine Field has averaged about two 70-degree days from Jan. 1 to May 10, so we’re sitting right around normal.

Still, in the moment, it can feel like we should have more warm days than we’ve had. As we head into the weekend, however, those asking for warmer weather may be second-guessing their opinions.

You’ve likely heard at this point that we’re expecting an early-season heat wave as we go into the second weekend of May. In fact, temperatures have already begun warming up; we already have our third 70-degree day of the year. This is only the start of what’s expected to be a several-day stretch of temperatures above 70 degrees.

A particularly strong upper-level ridge of high pressure is contributing to the abnormally warm temperatures, which can be seen in the model depiction below for late Friday.

Offshore flow will also contribute to warming. The air will move from Eastern Washington, over the mountains, and into our region. As air descends down the western slopes of the Cascades, it warms, which further adds to warming already in place. When we have onshore flow, with cooler and wetter air moving inland from the Pacific, we tend to cool down — so much so that onshore flow is lovingly termed as “nature’s air conditioning” by many Pacific Northwest meteorologists.

So how warm will it get?

Highs on Friday will be near the mid-70s, but by Sunday and Monday, highs could reach the low-to-mid 80s. As a frame of reference, on average, we tend to see our first 80-degree day at Paine Field by mid-June, so we’re about a month ahead of schedule. Areas more prone to high temperatures in Western Washington could see temperatures reach the 90s! Like I said, be careful what you wish for!

As is the case with most heat waves, overnight temperatures can exacerbate the difficulty of heat by not giving enough cooling for substantial relief. Nights with lows that approach 60 degrees or higher tend to be a bit difficult to sleep comfortably, especially if you don’t have some form of air conditioning — and most don’t!

An Excessive Heat Watch is currently in place for most of Western Washington from Saturday afternoon to Monday afternoon. High heat, just as with any significant weather event, requires proper planning and action. Everyone, especially those more sensitive to heat, needs to stay hydrated and limit sun exposure. If outdoors, put on sunscreen and take breaks in the shade.

Also, never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles, especially in hot weather. It seems like such an obvious tip — but there are deaths that happen every year throughout the country due to this very thing. Please don’t contribute to that statistic.

Now, many of you will probably try to make your way to one of our many recreational areas with the option of swimming. It is extremely important to remember that the water at this time of the year is still quite cold, which can pose an extreme risk to those not adequately prepared.

Please take a moment to review the following guidelines put out by NWS Seattle if you’re planning on making a trip to the beach or river.

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned these tips before if you’ve read my column during the summer months, but after a long winter, it is very important to repeat them — and I will probably repeat them again in the coming months! I want everyone to be prepared for any kind of weather that comes their way.

A weak upper-level low may make its way to our region on Monday, which could lead to some convection, meaning increasing clouds and possibly even a thunderstorm. This is more likely in the mountains, but it is something to be aware of.

Temperatures are expected to cool slightly for most of next week, with highs in the 70s; so for the time being, expect the warmth to stay for a while. Time to get out those summer clothes — you’re going to need them!

Have a great weekend. Stay safe (and prepared)!

— By Kelsie Nelson

Kelsie Nelson is a meteorologist and recent University of Washington graduate who grew up in Lynnwood and now lives in Kenmore. After writing weather blogs as a KOMO News intern, she discovered a passion for writing about weather. You can learn more in her blog www.wxnoggin.com and you can also follow her on Twitter at @kels_wx3. Questions can be directed to Kelsie at kelsie@myedmondsnews.com.


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