Sound Summer 2010
on the South Sound OLY TAC area)
2010 WAS NEARLY A TOTAL BUST. That's as of the official end of
Summer, September 21.... See explanatory note* re: my coined term "THE OLY-TAC
In fact, a January
19, 2011 story in the Olympian newspaper quoted a climate researcher
at the University of Washington, whose data claimed that 2010
as a whole had suffered under 107 days of "heavy fog"
as opposed to a normal of 89 days, and that 2010 had in fact featured the most foggy
summer on record,
and not only for Olympia, but for many cities in the Northwest,
including Portland. Note: the research definition of heavy fog
included the "low cloud" decks for which the Northwest
is so notorious.
folks from sunnier climes like to think that a good Summer begins
with an April that shows up with some encouraging sunny, warm
days at least a few times, followed by a May featuring an encouraging
spell of warm, sunny days at least once. But Spring 2010 in the
Puget Sound area was rather depressing.
April 2010: at
Sea-Tac the month's highest temperature was a measely 70 degrees
one time, with zero days rated as clear, and only 8 days with
no measureable rain.
May: at Sea-Tac
the month's highest was a cool 72 degrees, with only 4 days rated
as clear, and zero rated as cloudless. In Olympia there were only
seven days with no measureable rain, and over 4 inches of rain
fell, breaking records.
June: all around
the Puget Sound, the month of June was especially disappointing
to those looking forward to a nice Summer. At Sea-Tac the two
warmest days were only 77 and 74 degrees, with only a single day
rated as clear, and zero days rated as cloudless. In Olympia,
the rain continued to pelt down with record amounts, 3.34 inches
in June. You started hearing people referrring to "June-uary"
because the month seemed more like winter than nearly-summer!
THE MIDDLE AND
END OF SUMMER 2010 WERE EQUALLY DISAPPOINTING:
July 2010: finally
summer arrived. Sea-Tac reported the Spring/Summer's first cloudless
days, five of them. It was a happy thing to see sunshine flooding
down all day long at long last. The month's high temperatures
were 90, 93 and 95 at Sea-Tac, with 11 days rated as clear. There
were still six days having measureable rainfall. Nevertheless,
overall the month felt quite dry, and with a fair number of clear
days, residents felt cheered, and ready for August to get even
more summery, as is often the case around the Sound.
the area's Last Best Hope for a "real" Summer month
did not materialize. Sea-Tac's three hottest days were 91, 95
and 96. There were six days with measureable rain. Only 9 days
rated as clear, and only four of them were rated cloudless. The
month ended on a dismal note, with a dark, cloudy day full of
rain and a high temperature not even reaching 60 degrees.
2010: I rate up until the official ending of summer, September
21st. At Sea-Tac, the end of summer was marked by lots of rain
and clouds. A few times summer struggled to get back into the
game, with highs of 84, 77, and 72. The were 12 days with measureable
rain during the first 21 days of September. Worse, there were
NO days rated as clear, and worse yet, only three days were even
rated as "partly cloudy."
Summer 2010 Summary:
"SLOW TO START, QUICK TO END" characterized Summer 2010 around the Puget
Sound. There were only a couple spells qualifying to be called
"heat waves," and they were not lengthy....In Olympia
the year's high temperature was a 97 set in August, and the second
hottest being 95. But even in Olympia, there were only 7 days
in the whole year hitting 90 or above. At Sea-Tac, there were
only six days hitting 90 or above. September in Olympia recorded
nearly five inches of rain, nearly all of that fallling when it
was still suppposed to be summertime; this broke many long-standing
records. To this writer, one of the gloomiest statistics of the
2010 Spring/Summer were the cloudiness ones-- there were only
nine days in the entire period of Spring and Summer that were
rated as cloudless days, and only 25 days out of 172 days rated
as "clear" (that's less than 15% in what is supposed
to be the sunniest time of year around Puget Sound)...... November 3, 2010 Addendum-- Surprising news, the
Puget Sound turned around the gloomy summer by having a pretty
decent Indian Summer period in October, and then astounding everyone
by tying the
all-time RECORD HIGH FOR NOVEMBER! That was a one-day long, freak heatwave
on November 2, where Sea-Tac saw an official 74 degrees, tying
the old record, which had stood for 61 years (since 1949)...
Washington vs. Eugene, Oregon to illustrate
Summary: if one
moves south from Puget Sound into the Southern Willamette Valley
in Oregon, summertimes are much more sunny and also are consistently
warmer. Summer 2010 illustrates this climatic pattern very well.
In August 2010
the Sea-Tac airport featured the summer's best heat wave, a mid-month
one where for five consecutive days it was hot and sunny-- 86,
95, 96, 91 and 89, but overall August managed only 9 days rated
as "clear," and only 4 days rated as cloudless.... Meanwhile,
in the Southern Willamette Valley it was considerably more summery--
in Eugene, where I used to live, the heat wave stretched out longer,
with highs of 89, 95, 101, 92, 95 and 90, and the month had 12
clear days and zero cloudy days. Both stations reported
somewhat sub-normal rainfall for the month, but nevertheless they
both had several rainy/misty days that got outdoor projects wet,
especially in Tacoma/Olympia (8 rainy days officially, and 9-10
in Olympia by my guesstimate). At Sea-Tac, the last day of August
brought a really BAD sign of things to come, with a high of only
59 degrees and 0.40 inches of rain! While that last day also brought
rain and cooler temperatures to Eugene, it was warmer with much
* CLEAR. National Weather Service (NWS) official rating system
of "clear" is a ten-point system, where 0-3 clouds get
the "clear" designation. Note that during the very long
daytimes of mid-summer, this means that several hours of a day
can be worse than "clear," and the day still get a rating
** NOTE: SKY CLOUDINESS
DATA: I used data from Sea-Tac International Airport. I've observed
numerous anomalies in the data from Olympia, especially in what
appears to be a pattern of inaccuracy in the reporting of sky
cloudiness due to the type of automated instrumentation used at
the Olympia Airport. Thus, I use Sea Tac cloudiness data, which
is collected by real people on a 365-day per year basis and is
much more reliable.....To extrapolate conditions in Olympia, we
look to the long-term averages, which show that Olympia is considerably
wetter than Sea-Tac (Olympia yearly rainfall is somewhat over
50 inches, where Sea-Tac yearly is somewhat under 40 inches).
We also know that Sea-Tac lies on the southern fringe of the Olympia
Mountain rain shadow, whereas Olympia is far enough south to be
missing the rain shadow effect. Generally speaking, then, Sea-Tac
shows an overall pattern of less rainfall than Olympia, and probably
also should show somewhat less cloudiness. Image below: a late-afternoon satellite image from
mid-summer, showing the flux of cool coastal air and low clouds
funneling up from the Coast and hanging right over the Olympia
It's rarely sunny?
"Good," they say, "I hate that bright, glarey Sun."..
It's rainy almost all the time in the winter, and often even in
the summertime? "Good," they say, "I love all that
green! I love the moist-feeling air! I love the rain-washed smell
of things!"... Such well-adjusted folk say the rain doesn't
really prevent them from enjoying their outdoor activities, many
are observed walking around in 45-50 degree temps in the rain,
hatless and wearing just normal shoes and a T-shirt!.... It rarely
snows in the winter? "Great," they say, "I hate
the snow.".... Temperatures are often cool and windy, even
in the summer? they say, "Wow, we have such a MILD climate!
One of the BEST climates on Earth!"
by Bruce B. Johnson M.A.
OLY-TAC. * while my hope as a weather reporter had originally
been to focus only on the Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater area, that has
proved impossible due to a data accuracy factor... in search of
the best data, I now present the sky cover data from Sea-Tac International
Airport, 50 miles north of Olympia, while the rainfall data is
mostly from from Olympia itself (the Olympia Airport's automated
station). I coined the term "OLY TAC' to delineate this area...
This is not an entirely good way to do things, and I'm forced
to factor in some guesstimates because Olympia often has more
persistent low clouds than anywhere else around the Puget Sound,
to name just one of the discrepancies. (eg. in the satellite image above it's 3pm on a late summer
afternoon, with warm sunshine prevailing all over the Northwest--
except for a blob of low clouds hanging right over Olympia!).....
And while Olympia often gets hotter in the summer months than
Sea-Tac, it is also generally quite a lot more rainy (yearly,
about 52-53 inches vs. only 38-40 at Sea-Tac). All that extra
rain produces more cloudy/foggy/misty days with drizzle than at
Sea-Tac, as a generality, but a difficult one to measure and quantify.
But it's easy to observe the common pattern during the summer
months that you leave Olympia under gray overcast skies and drive
out from under the clouds into sunshine by the time you reach
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Last Revised January 24, 2018. January 2018
Sound's Notorious See-Saw Effect is strong as Summer 2010 Poops
Out: the weather is mostly cool and cloudy, with a couple brief
glimpses of Summertime:
25 at Sea-Tac = high 86, but the very next day, high only 69,
and temps stay very cool until Sept. 3, when it zooms to 84, but
the very next day high is only 67, and the highest after that,
up until the official end of summer, is only 72, on one single
in the Southern Willamette Valley the effect is less pronounced
and summer temperatures linger longer: August 25 has a high of
97, and the next day cooled radically, just like around Puget
Sound, but down to a still-warm 77. ...September 3 saw a high
of 90, cooling to 74 the next day, but in Eugene summer wasn't
over yet, with September 14th seeing a pleasing 81, and the 16th
approaching 80 with a nice 78 degree day.