Skip to main content

In late August we completed a decade living in Seattle. I never thought we would stay here that long, so this indicates that the place has been generally nice to us. Our kids see this as home, but we are still a bit disoriented. Among other things, the local weather kinda makes us feel not quite natural.

See, where we come from (Israel-Palestine) there are 320 sunny days a year, give or take a few. Summer lasts forever, while winter and spring are short and intense. To be more precise, the Levantine "winter" would not count as winter in other temperate zones of the world. But it can still whip up a violent rainstorm, occasionally even snow in the mountains.

All this is a far cry from the mildness, drizzle and perennially gray skies of America's "Latte Capital."

However, seems like even long-term Seattle locals are quite disoriented these days. The local weather has gone a bit loco over the past decade - and this, in a place that according to many models stands to suffer very minor impacts from global warming compared with other parts of the world.

Specifically, at the very same week we marked our first decade in Seattle, the city jotted down its first-ever calendar month with zero (0) precipitation.

Follow me below the squiggly for a partial list of extreme-weather records we have witnessed first-hand in our 10 years here.

Seattle's dry streak has now lasted 6 weeks (link to University of Washington fabulous weather data site), since July 21 or 22 depends on how you count. With no rain forecast until late next weekend, the streak will likely last well beyond 45 days to become the second-longest in recorded history. The longest streak was a 51-day mammoth (relative to Seattle, that is) from 1951. But the comparison might not be fair, because back then the rain gauges might have been less sensitive and could have missed, say, a streak-ending 0.02" drizzle that can be measured today.

Interestingly (for outsiders, at least), this streak still does not count as drought in Seattle, because summers here, esp. mid-July to mid-September are dry in general. The water situation depends mostly upon rain and mountain snow from October through June.

One thing's for sure: complete bone-dryness like we are experiencing right now, definitely qualifies as "extreme weather" for Seattle. And like elsewhere around the world, we've had our share. Here's what we have observed (probably a partial list):

- The hottest Seattle day ever in July 2009. This 103-degree day broke the previous record by 3 degrees, and was part of a record 6-day streak of 90-plus degrees.

- In between the sizzling summers of 2009 and 2012, the summer of 2010 was completely MIA, and 2011 seemed to begin even worse. It took until May 20 to first cross 70 degrees, and until mid-August we had logged only a few short midday blips of 80-plus degree weather. Then late August to mid-September made up for it with a series of heat waves that laid July to shame. I cannot find a ref right now, but I'm pretty sure this was the hottest September on record.

So of the last 4 summers, none have been "ordinary", not by a long shot. In addition,

- Summer 2003 was also unusually warm and dry, causing wildfires to rage throughout the Pacific Northwest (this year, too, there were some damaging wildfires in the Cascades).

How about the rainy season?

- I got quite wet on what turned out to be the rainiest day in Seattle history, in October 2003. For some silly reason I decided to extend my walk to the University that morning. By the time I got into class, all the student papers I was supposed to hand out were soaked. The total for the day was around 5.8" (140mm), and it beat the previous record by a good 2". Yes, 100mm days are a rarity in Seattle, where drizzles are the norm.

- If I am not mistaken, several more days among the top 5 rainiest ones also occurred during this past decade, including torrential 3-day storms in the falls of 2006 and 2007 that closed Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia.

- From December 2005 to January 2006, there was a record-tying rainy-day streak (something like 30 days in a row). It ended on the day our youngest son was born ;)

- In December 2006, a 1.5" rainstorm was accompanied by a near-hurricane-force windstorm that knocked off power to 100,000s of homes and caused several deaths. We were without power for four days and had to evacuate.

- For three weeks between December 2008 and January 2009, several consecutive snow events piled up on each other. Even in our home which was not the snowiest part of town, it eventually accumulated to about a foot and a half. The city, accustomed to at most an annual dusting of snow, was shut down much of the time.

- The winter of 2010-11 saw a major snowstorm (nearly a foot, as far as I can recall) come very early in the season, right before Thanksgiving. The city... was shut down.

- Then, this January (2012) markedthe single snowiest recorded day in Seattle history. The city? You know the rest.

- On the other extreme, winter 2004/5 was declared an official drought, and included the longest-ever winter dry-day streak. I remember that streak - it took place during the kids' school break in February. We used it to go to the Western Olympic Peninsula - the rainiest place in continental US, during the height of the rainy season. We were there four days without a cloud in the sky.

To sum it up, Seattle's weather has not been its usual self. It vacillates between wanting to be more Mediterranean like California to the south, or more Arctic like Canada and Alaska to the north. Exactly the "loaded climate dice" mentioned by Hansen et al. (pdf).

And Seattle still has it easy. It's nothing like what Oklahoma or the Gulf Coast have been experiencing. But it has still been substantial enough to affect our life here.

Meanwhile, what's going on in our old country? Scorching bone-dry summers are the norm in Israel-Palestine. But I am willing to testify, that heat waves in February and December, like we are hearing about now from our families and friends, never happened between say 1970 and the mid-2000s, and probably not before that. Now these winter heat waves are an annual occurrence. One heat wave in December 2010 caused a chain of deadly wildfires that shut much of the country down. The 2000's also saw a couple of small tornadoes there, the first ever recorded. In fact, the first one had the temerity to blaze through our very own back yard, shredding garden equipment and yanking out several dozen roof shingles. That happened in spring 2002, a few months before we left.

In short, yes my friends, global warming is fast becoming an everyday experience from which none of us can escape even as some of us continue to deny it. What we can - and should do - is act to reduce our contribution to it.

More on that later...

Meanwhile, on a subliminal level I must admit I enjoy this dry spell. In my bones, it just feels like back home, where 4-5 hot/warm months without a drop of rain are the norm.

[ If you are a Seattle-area local, feel free to remind me of any recent extreme-weather events I've forgotten. I'm sure there are more. ]

------- Saturday UPDATE, for posterity's sake: -----------

Seattle's dry streak is now at day 48 or 49, and a heat wave yesterday and today (90 and a forecast of 87, respectively) is putting a cherry on top of it. However, rain is strongly in the forecast for early Monday morning - which would cut the streak just short of tying the 1951 record. If that rain event somehow misses Seattle, there's no other rain forecast for the rest of the week. Regardless, clearly our present streak is a once-in-60-years type event, maybe even once-in-a-century.

I wanted to correct two errors from above: the 2004/5 winter dry streak and the 2005/6 winter wet streak were both second longest, not longest or tied for first. On the other hand, I didn't realize that the non-existent 2010 summer included a record-tying wet streak. All these corrections are thanks to local weatherman Scott Sistek, who last week showed in his blog an image of an official paper record book from 1998 which he keeps updating by hand. The pages the image show the top ten entries for 4 records: dry and wet streak for summer and winter, respectively.

Another thing evident from the image is that the past decade has been busy changing the very top of these lists. True, we do not break all 4 records every year, but this decade is still one where meaningful, long-term weather records (unlike daily records which are less meaningful) are broken more often than usual.

To sum it up, in 10 years we've had:
- the hottest day ever, beating the previous one by 3 degrees;
- the rainiest day ever, again shattering the previous record by >2", as well as several other entries in the all-time top 5 - each from a different year in the decade;
- the snowiest day on record, as well as several multi-day events that were at least rare, if not record-breaking;
- and last but not least, dry and wet streaks of the type that occurs once in 2 generations, or had never happened before.

The only type of record missing from this list is low-temperature records. This is quite compatible with a global-warming scenario.

So yes, to address some comments: even Seatte's relatively-freaky recent weather is orders of magnitude more bearable than what happens elsewhere. But that's exactly what causes many local old-timers to miss the fact that weather patterns here are becoming more unusual, and generally reflecting higher levels and more intense spurts of heat energy. We are like the proverbial frog in the gradually-warming water, who never feels the change until it is too late.

Now, let's see if the dry streak does the impossible and pulls through past 51 days...

 

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Assaf did you read about this? (8+ / 0-)

    From Common Dreams:

    The water crisis in Palestine is 100% human-made, not a climate change catastrophe, not an issue of deforestation or drought.  Don’t let the geography fool you, as Ziyad Lunat from the Thirsting For Justice campaign pointed out, Jerusalem gets nearly the same amount of rainfall as London.

    We say Palestine, mind you, not the West Bank and/or Gaza and/or the Occupied Territories. When we say Palestine, we mean all of it.   The Palestine that is Gaza, the West Bank, the 64+ year flood of refugees in Jordan and Syria and Turkey and Chicago—the largest flood of refugees in modern history that spans across the globe.

    This water catastrophe—this other type of nakba—is the definitive result of Israel’s continued conduct and apartheid policies, evident in the waterborne disease spreading throughout Palestinian refugee camps that are perhaps not an accident, but an inconvenient oversight. Perhaps they are part of the continuing collateral damage of a so-called unsolvable crisis that in person, feels much more like the combination of a big lie and a large land grab. And, as many others are learning across the globe, behind every land grab is a water grab.
    http://www.commondreams.org/...

    I would love for you to do a diary on it, if possible and if you have the time.

    Thanks for all the great work you do Assaf on behalf of justice for the Palestinians and peace for both Israel and Palestine.

    •  Water Injustice in Israel-Palestine... (8+ / 0-)

      ...is a grave issue. I'm pretty sure there were some Adalah diaries on it, surely in the weekly news clips brought by FriendlyStranger. I'm not sure I'm up to writing a diary about the general issue any time soon.

      Three comments to your quote: first, global warming is also human-made and not a natural catastrophe.

      Second, the injustice and inefficiency caused by conflict- and Occupation-oriented water policies are exacerbated by the very real effects of global warming upon the Middle East. So both problems exist there.

      And third, all this is somewhat off-topic to this particular diary.

      From the global-warming perspective, it is still worth noting though - and it is almost never noted - that militarization in general, and policies of military Occupation, massive forced displacement, and armed conflict in particular, have a huge CO2 footprint.

      Perhaps the worst footprint among all human activity, because even on the short term they produce no net tangible benefit to Humanity.

      As happens sadly in Israel-Palestine, and in too many other places around the globe.

  •  we moved there in (7+ / 0-)

    july 2002 and just moved back to the midwest Aug 10, 2012 (to be closer to family). I think you nailed most of the odd weather events. I just posted something myself about the lack of rain on FB to remind my friends that things are strange everywhere. I've moved back to a place where, as  child, it never was as hot as it is now. (I love and miss the grey seattle weather).

  •  I'll take Seattle's extreme weather (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    page394, chuckvw, Assaf, sara seattle, myboo, Powell

    over the extreme weather in the rest of the country any day of the week and twice on Sundays. We go a month without rain? We hit 80 degrees more than three times in August? We had a 102-degree day once? (Yeah, I remember that day and the hot, long bus ride across the 520 bridge. It wasn't any longer than usual but in 102-degree heat on a bus with no air conditioning it sure seemed like it.)

    Contrast that with the rest of the country and you'll see what I mean. I'm sure there are places where the temperature never goes below 80, including at night, for a month.

    I'll still take the weather here over anywhere else in North America.

    You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children's children what it was once like in America when 25% of the population was batshit insane.

    by Omir the Storyteller on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 02:59:48 PM PDT

    •  Agreed (xept for the winter grays) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sara seattle, Powell

      But still, it has been getting more and more erratic in Seattle terms.

    •  You'd think that. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sara seattle, Assaf, myboo, Powell

      Until you go over 40 days without sunshine.
      http://www.komonews.com/...

      Then all bets are off.  

      Weather patterns have changed. Consistent misty winter days with sunbreaks seem to have been replaced by heavy rains, heavier cloud cover, days without rain, etc.

      Seattle never was the wettest city in terms of rainfall. It was just always sort of consistently drizzly. That seems to have changed.

      We saw less than two weeks of temps over 80 last summer. It was a spring that set records for cold temps and that spring just ran into autumn. We never really got summer. Everyone was pretty miserable.

      As much as we complain about the summer days in the high 90s which happens at least once or twice a year normally,  we complained more about not having a summer.

      Right now, it's a lovely day as I sit on my deck. But if you're someone who needs sunshine and warmth, this is a pretty tough climate to live in.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 07:00:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I moved to Seattle I loved the drizzly (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grover, Assaf, Powell

        weather, I did not mind it one bit.  I moved about 2 years ago and I left in the middle of a snow storm.  I was done, the weather had become so erratic and dangerous, huge storms knocking down trees in every direction.  Torrential downpours all winter long which flooded the sewers.  Snowstorms that prevented you from getting to work or stranded people on the freeways.....and no snow removal equipment.

        •  I moved here for the weather (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Assaf, Powell, grover

          When we decided to leave Texas after about eight years we decided to come up here. There were two reasons. One was to be near a support network (my wife's sister and some of her friends) and the other was to get weather as different from Texas heat as we could find. I miss the food and some of the people of Austin; I don't miss the air conditioning bills.

          Anytime I feel like complaining about the weather here (which is seldom) I think about those long sweltering Texas summers, and suddenly Seattle doesn't seem nearly so bad.

          You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children's children what it was once like in America when 25% of the population was batshit insane.

          by Omir the Storyteller on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 08:13:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Some of your points are wrong. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, myboo, Powell
    The city, accustomed to at most an annual dusting of snow, ...
    Seattle is receiving less snow than the historical norm, not more. Cool summers with warm weather finally arriving in September are not the norm, but are not that rare, either.
  •  I admit to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Assaf, jennyp, sara seattle, Powell

    wanting better weather outcomes for myself and my daughter. Seattle is one of the places I'm considering. Kansas is becoming too unbearable for a number of reasons, chief among them is the nutjob running the state and the extremes of weather we are seeing. I am quite serious about moving, but I need to research my options more thoroughly before I do anything.

    "He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave." — William Drummond of Hawthornedenne (13 December 1585 – 4 December 1649), Scottish poet.

    by zamrzla on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 03:27:04 PM PDT

  •  best place to find recent weather records (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, Assaf, Powell

    is the local National Weather Service forecast office website.

    Seattle's is at:

    http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/...

    To find others, go to:

    http://www.weather.gov/...

    and scroll down to the region in which you live.  It's fairly straightforward to find them.

    "Mitt Romney has more positions than the Kama Sutra." -- me "Social justice is love, made public." -- Cornel West

    by billlaurelMD on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 05:24:02 PM PDT

  •  West Coast Climate Change (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grover, Assaf, Powell

    It will quickly get much worse. Soon there will be less coastal fog and the redwoods and other trees that depend on fog for moisture will wither and die. And, soon, climate models strongly suggest that there will be little or no snow fall at Lake Tahoe, as a result the lake level will fall and the water warm and turn a dull, murky blue. In the California Central Valley, dersertification will set in and render the valley too dry and the fragile top soil will blow away. The future is not looking too good for the west coast or the USA or World for that matter, we need to take know steps to correct AGW NOW!!!

  •  As a long time Seattle resident (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myboo, Powell, Assaf

    I have to say I do not have the same impression  that our weather has gotten a lot more extreme this past decade.  i have memories of extreme weather events seared into my brain from every decade I have lived here.  What about the 100+ days of rain some winter in the 90's?  The horrible Thanksgiving day storm in 1983?  The worst snowstorm ever in 1990 with kids camping overnight in schools, then it froze solid and abandoned cars were iced over for a week just around Christmas.  

    We have had El Nino years and La Nina years and no summers and no winters and on and on.   While drizzly is the norm, November often brings truckloads of heavy rain. With increased development, we have more flooding so it may seem worse, but we just have worse runoff.  

    I guess I just can't agree that the weather seems more extreme than it was in the 90's or 80's or 70's.  This "no summer" that you complained about in 2011 actually is  a regularly occurring event here.  The only thing that has stood out as totally unusual in my experience is the heat wave of 2009, culminating in the 103 day.  It was unique because IT NEVER COOLED DOWN AT NIGHT.  With our evening on shore air flow, no matter how hot it gets during the day, the Puget sound air conditioner cools us off at night.  Not that time.  I remember being freaked out that at midnight it was still 88 degrees.

    This summer seems completely typical to me.  hardly much in the way of heat - don't think we even cracked 90 more than one day.  The lack of measurable rain may be approaching a "record" but the pattern of very dry Aug/Sep is our norm.  Just being contrary here, I know, but as a long time resident,  I am not alarmed in the least.  I get alarmed when I see the weather map for the REST of the country.

  •  Is there any relation to El Nino/La Nina? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powell, Assaf

    The Southern Oscillation Index affects weather in the American west. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the years you mention as being warm and dry are associated with El Nino.

  •  unfortunately (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Assaf

    these climate change effects are only precursors to the warming that is already locked in for the next 20 years.

    and those final changes to our climate will create new feedback mechanisms that won't reach their full effect for several hundred years.

    and the final total balance of new warming will already be enough to radically transform our environment into a violent and unforgiving arena where economic, water and food insecurity causes a massive decline in humanity's population, likely leading to the collapse of what we currently know to be modern civilization.

    and this is already locked-in with current warming.  The final total warming that will happen over the next several hundred years is completely based on what we do today to stop emitting CO2 globally.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site