Supposedly, it was a very prolonged La Nina event that cursed our entire region this Spring and Summer. All the way from the Canadian border to the California border, the cloudiness was depressing, and several of the months were extremely wet, too. Mostly, it was presistently cool/chilly, for example, as of August 15th, Portland still had not even had a 90-degree day! (for regional details, click here). From Seattle to Portland, our tomatoes struggled to reach maturity even at the end of August.... The highest mountain trails remained under snow into mid-August with near-record, ultra-late snow and retarded snow melting rates. Finally, just as most depressed residents were about to give up all hope of Summer, nine glorious days of clear skies and summer-like temperatures blessed the region during the first half of September! (click to skip to this section)
Late July--- In the July 22 image to the left, taken on Oregon's Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge, the aspect looks like late June, with snow still on the ground at the Lodge, and distant Mt. Jefferson looking quite winter-like. Additional research showed that as of July 22 up in the Washington Cascades, there were still 64 inches of snow at the Mt. Baker Ski Area (only 4,200 ft. elevation), and checking the trail reports from Olympic National Park revealed reports of deep snow on many trails even lower than 4,200 ft, and comments that most of the high country lakes were still partly to mostly frozen! The second picture is from 5,500 feet on Mt. Rainier's south side. It is also July 22nd in this picture, and the view on August 4th looked basically the same...(click here to see the August 4th. view, still very snow-covered). Then, view an even more shocking scene from August 12th in the picture of the hiker).
On Mt. Rainier's south side, in the Paradise Lodge area (see picture above), the world-famous wildflower meadows are vanished this summer. They are still buried under deep snow. If you want to see the flowers this year, you'd better aim for late August! In the picture's lower right corner, note the small group of hikers; they're not smelling the flowers and one would hope they are wearing stout, waterproof boots! On July 29th, the Mt. Rainier Park website had this conditions report: "Although many trails park-wide are still under snow, all park roads are open, as are most of the lower-elevation trails. The current snowline is around 5000 feet. Due to heavy snowfall this past winter (2010-2011), melt-out is not expected until sometime in August." Please see my picture from August 12th near Paradise!
August 19, 2011--- Over most of Western Washington and Western Oregon it remained unseasonably cool and cloudy. Very un-summery days were common, such as July 14th in Olympia, where the high was 61 degrees with rain! Even though it was now into the latter half of Summer, many days struggled to reach daily maximums four to eight degrees below normal, while daily minimums were often more or less normal, all the result of abnormally cool, humid air and presistent cloud cover (click to see satellite photos) that prevented the normal summer pattern that clear skies would cause (large diurnal swings between day and night). This pattern was especially true in the highly populated Puget Sound region, where Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle) recorded only four days which I would rate as "cloudless" between March 1 and August 19 (Weather Service sky ratings of 0 to 1)....... Read my notes from Summer 2005 for my analysis and predictions.
Temperatures--- As of August 19th, 2011, here is a regional summary of just how incredibly cool it was: Sea-Tac (Seattle) as of August 19th had experienced only a few days above 80; the three highest of which were 84, 83 and 81, and as of August 19th it had been 80 or above in August only one time, and that a mere 81 degrees....... Further south, Portland had not yet hit 90; their three hottest days as of August 19th had been 87, 87, and 86..... Further south in Eugene, the summer had only hit 90 once; the three hottest days at 90, 88, and 86..... Finally, down near the California border, normally scorching-hot Medford had not even hit 100; its three hottest days at 97, 96, and 95. Many cities in the region were poised to set "cool summer" records. --- (Sept. 30th update: Medford failed to reach 100 for summer 2011, a real rarity for Medford; however, early September did surprisingly bring Medford's most prolonged and hottest summer weather, with 99 degrees hit four times between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10... Meanwhile, up in the Puget Sound, neither Seattle nor Olympia ever got beyond the high 80s this entire summer; Seattle reached only 87, while in Olympia 2011's highest temperature was only 88, and that reached on September 11th, a very late date that was truly indicative of the disturbance in the normal climatic patterns that had beset Summer 2011.)
Clear Days: Summer to most of us means blue skies and sunshine. Puget Sound suffered severely in this category during Summer 2011. Even by the National Weather Service's liberal definition of a "clear" day, which allows cloudiness up to "3" on their 10 point scale, Sea-Tac allowed only 28 "clear" days between June 1 and Sept. 30th, and only four of those "clear" days ranked as "cloudless." For comparison, Medford basked under 100 clear days, of which an astonishing 62 were rated as cloudless!
And, finally, below is a shocking picture from a hike on Mt. Rainier that my son and I did on AUGUST 12, 2011. We were at only 5400 feet, just a few minutes hiking away from the lower parking lot at Paradise. The aspect here most closely resembles a normal year in mid-June, NOT MID-AUGUST... The snow in these vast wooded tracts was generally two to five feet in depth. Unless the remainder of August suffers a major heat wave, I do not think these snows will be entirely gone even by the beginning of September...... September of course is often when Rainier is hit by an early season snowstorm or two!
Summer 2005 in the Portland area ended on a cool note, with only two minor heat waves the entire summer. The highest temperature was only 96, recorded one time. It is a rare summer when Portland doesn't hit 100 degrees at least once or twice, and rare that there are not two to four heat waves that last several days apiece. (my definition of "heat wave" is three or more days in a row with highs of 90 or above).
Summer 2005 started late, ended early, and never really got very hot.
Sept. 8-- the day hit 84 for a high. This was the last really warm summertime-type day in the Portland area (my definition is any day showing a high of 80 or more).... How many months will it be before Portland hits 80 degrees again? (based on history, it is likely to be 7-8 months, which means not until April or May; eg. the all-time record highs for April have not been 80 or above until the 12th of the month (82 degrees, April 12, 1943).
Sept. 28-- 76 degrees---the last day in Portland that showed a high of 75 or more.
Sept. 26th-- the last day in the Portland area rated as "clear" by the Weather Service on their scale of 0-10 cloudiness, where 0-3 rates as a clear day.
Sept. 23-26-- the last "clear spell" in Portland (defined as three or more clear days in a row). How many months will it be before Portland sees another clear spell? (based on history, it is likely to be between 2 and 5 months).
October 1-20. So far there have been
no clear days, one partly cloudy day, and the daily highs have
remained cool, never even hitting 70.
Comparisons with past heat records--- October 2, 1970, Portland has a high of 90. Salem has an even hotter high of 93... And in 1980 this date, Medford was up to 99 degrees.
October 3, 1979, Portland was 86, and Medford hit 96 . In 1932 this date, Salem hit a very summery 92 degrees!
Noting the paragraphs above, I ask the reader: If there is so much global warming, why are many of the record highs for the Portland area found so far back in history, before the era usually associated with global warming?
WINTERTIMES: I also ask why the proven fact of overall global warming has seemingly focused its effects on Oregon's wintertimes. Most experts agree that there's been a long-term, gradual lessening of lowland winter snows and diminishment of the wintertime arctic air outbreaks that formerly brought massive cold to Oregon, and Oregon's glaciers have radically shrunk from what they were when Oregon was being settled in the late 1800s..... Meanwhile, summertimes in Oregon seem to have been altered; however, not in the direction of increased warmth and sunshine. Examining the data, it's clear that long term heat records are not being shattered all the time, and overall there hasn't been an increase in the yearly amounts of truly hot and clear weather. ... Instead, we seem to be seeing a marked delay in the onset of Oregon's summer--- June and the first half of July are often persistently cloudy and without any true heat, certainly a change very disappointing to most of the Northwest's sun-starved residents, and especially frustrating to school children on their summer vacations!.... The arrival of the settled hot/dry/sunny weather now seems to arrive "sometime" during the latter half of July--- but then summer-like conditions seem to persist one to three weeks later into the Fall than in past decades, once again frustrating school children who see all the warm weather from inside their classrooms!. (Note: this is my theory, developed over the past several years, and may not prove to be a long-term pattern).
ADDENDUM. Here's another paradoxical item related to the manisfestations of global warming in the Pacific Northwest------ Unnoticed by most Oregonians, the Willamette Valley suffered all-time record lows in early Fall 2002--- once on Oct. 31 (Halloween), and again on November 1. This was a record-breaking early-season cold wave all over the Willamette Valley; example, Eugene recorded a low of 17 degrees on Halloween, and 16 degrees the following night! Events like 2002's Fall cold wave, and 2005 and 2011's cool, short summers seemingly dispute the concept of global warming. In fact, such cold makes it easier to suspect an oncoming Ice Age than to trust in global warming!