Summer may be technically over, but nice-ish weather has been holding on into the beginning of fall—a reminder of a record-breakingly hot and dry summer.
With an average high temperature of 78.6, this past summer—June 21 to September 21—was the hottest on record. It was also extraordinarily dry, which fueled especially smoky conditions in August.
The next-hottest summer was nearly identical in 1967, but the third, fourth, and fifth hottest summers on record were much more recent, in 2014, 2015, and 2013, respectively.
“See a pattern?” said Chris Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS)’s Seattle chapter.
Along with the heat, this summer was also the driest on record in Seattle, with just over half an inch of rain—.52 inches. The previous record-holder was more than a century ago in 1910 which had .58 inches.
Burke said we had a lot of dry summers in the early 20th century. Those summers had something else in common: smoke.
2017’s dry conditions helped fuel an extremely smoky summer as wildfires spread to the north, east, and south. To find a smokier summer, you’ll have to look back to that dry period about a century ago, said meteorologist Cliff Mass.
“[Mass] was correct regarding the smokiest summer,” said NWS meteorologist Ted Buehner. “The Yacolt wildfire in 1902 produced a lot of smoke through Western Oregon and Washington near the end of that summer with over 300,000 acres burned.”
“You don’t get a big fire unless everything’s dry,” explained Burke.