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Summer heat pushed average temps to record levels

2022-09-01 NWS August review.jpg
National Weather Service
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Daily average temperatures in the Inland Northwest were hot in July and August – hot enough to establish new benchmarks for record warmth.

The National Weather Service’s Spokane forecast office said August 2022 was the warmest August on record for at least ten reporting stations, including Spokane, Omak, Bonners Ferry and Republic. The differences were relatively small – Spokane’s average monthly temperature of 76 degrees was .8 degrees warmer than the previous record. But the small numerical differences were historically significant: the new records in Spokane and Sandpoint, for example, toppled records set in 1915.

Eight-tenths of a degree doesn’t sound like a lot, but it represents a lot of heat energy over a wide area.

“Considering the fact that records have been kept since 1881 for the Spokane area, it is fairly significant that we were almost a degree warmer for the month of August,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Laurie Nisbit. “It’s rather difficult to create a new record like that.”

Days were hot and nights were warm, which meant there was little overnight relief. That pattern pushed daily average temperatures up, which in turn raised the monthly average. The culprit was a persistent high pressure ridge, sometimes called a “dome,” that set up over the Inland Northwest and rarely budged.

“We did see some reprieve from that heat from time to time, but it was usually short-lived, and then we would warm up again,” Nisbit said.

Considering July and August together, Spokane and Lewiston reported record-warm averages. And in those cases, the old records were set just last year. In three other Inland Northwest towns – Kellogg, Lind and Winthrop – July and August 2022 placed among the top-four warmest comparable periods on record.

While many people consider the autumnal equinox the beginning of fall, for meteorologists, the season begins September 1. That means summer is officially over. But the high pressure pattern that produced the record warmth in July and August is still hanging around, giving early September a decidedly summer-like feel.

“We will stay warm Tuesday and Wednesday. Then a cold front moves through, and that will cool our temperatures Thursday and Friday to near average for this time of year,” Nisbit said. “However, we probably warm up again [over the] weekend.”

Some relief may come later this month, Nisbit said, as the summer ridge weakens and cooler air sets in for the season.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.