— Internet News

Summer swelter trend: West gets hotter days, East hot nights

As outlandish as the killer heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest was, it fits into a decades-long pattern of uneven summer warming across the United States.

The West is getting roasted by hotter summer days while the East Coast is swamped by hotter and stickier summer nights, an analysis of decades of U.S. summer weather data by The Associated Press shows.

State-by-state average temperature trends from 1990 to 2020 show America’s summer swelter is increasing more in some places that just got baked with extreme heat over the past week: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Colorado.

The West is the fastest-warming region in the country during June, July, and August, up 3 degrees on average since 1990. The Northwest has warmed nearly twice as much in the past 30 years as it has in the Southeast.

That includes Portland, Oregon, which set a record 116-degree high, 3 degrees warmer than temperatures ever recorded in Oklahoma City or Dallas-Fort Worth.

Although much of the primary cause of the past week’s extreme heat was an unusual but natural weather condition, scientists see the fingerprint of human-caused climate change, citing altered weather patterns that park heat in different places for more extended periods.


“The ridiculous temperatures in the Pacific Northwest may, on the one hand, be considered a black swan (ultra-rare) event, but on the other hand are consistent” with long-term trends, said meteorologist Judah Cohen of the private firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research. “So I am not going to predict when is the next time Portland will hit 116, but I believe hotter summers for the broader region are here to stay.”

Climate change alters and weakens the jet stream, narrow bands of wind that circle the Earth flowing west to east. Those changes allow key weather-producing high and low pressure patterns to stall in place. Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann says that high pressure brings hot and dry weather that, when stalled, can create what is known as heat domes. Low pressure brings wet weather. High pressure is delaying more often in the West in summer, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

Another factor is higher water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that generate more so-called high-pressure ridges in the West, said Gerald Meehl, a National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist who studies heat waves.

These patterns show up so often that their effects can be seen in long-term data. COHEN SAID THAT the U.S. Northwest, western Canada, and Siberia, which also just saw a stunning heatwave, are among Earth’s fastest-warming land areas during summer since 1990.

The Midwest is warming slower during the summer than either coast. That’s because stalled low-pressure areas often drive cooler air into the Great Lakes region, said North Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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