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Triple-digit temperatures remain in the forecast for scorching hot Northwest

By Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather.com
Triple digit temperatures are expected to continue in the Northwest region of the United States, according to meteorologists. Photo by geralt/<a href="https://pixabay.com/illustrations/thermometer-summer-heiss-heat-sun-4767444/">Pixabay</a>
Triple digit temperatures are expected to continue in the Northwest region of the United States, according to meteorologists. Photo by geralt/Pixabay

As a heat wave builds in the northwestern United States, temperatures will push toward levels not experienced since all-time record highs were set in June 2021, and the heat will bring a slew of impacts to the region ranging from health concerns to wildfire potential, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

Compared to last summer's deadly heat wave, which shattered all-time record highs during late June, temperatures will be less extreme this week. However, the current heat wave will last longer in many areas along the Pacific coast when compared to last year. People who live in coastal areas face five to seven days of excessive heat before some relief arrives, forecasters say.

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Temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher were limited to three days around Seattle with highs of 102, 104 and 108 degrees recorded from June 26-28 in 2021.

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During that historic heat wave last summer, the state record in Washington was set on June 29, 2021, with a high of 120 F in the small community of Hanford in south-central Washington. The Oregon state record of 119, previously set at multiple locations, was tied at Pelton Dam, located about 90 miles southeast of Portland.

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The long-duration heat, especially along the coast where there are less air-conditioned homes than the national average, can be a serious problem for those with respiratory problems, the elderly, young children and people experiencing homelessness.

Light winds that often accompany heat waves are also expected with the pattern much of this week and will cause pollutants to build up in the major cities which can add to the risks, forecasters say.

Increasing dryness will help to fuel the heat wave and lead to problems later on in the region.

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"The worst of heat in the Northwest through this week will be where the ground is the driest," AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Johnson-Levine said. The dry ground allows intense July sunshine to heat up the air quicker rather than wasting energy on evaporating moisture from the soil. The increasing dryness in the region will help boost temperatures to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit above average levels during what is typically the warmest part of the summer.

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High temperatures near or above 100 degrees are in store for Portland, Oregon, through Thursday. The city is located about 50 miles from the Pacific coast. Portland came close to hitting triple digits Monday with a high of 99. However, Medford, Oregon, located east of the Cascades in the southern part of the state, hit 107 Monday. Medford residents can expect multiple days with highs between 105 and 110 F through this week.

It is a similar story for Pendleton, Oregon, located in the northeastern part of the state, where the temperature hit 102 Monday. At least two-thirds of Oregon was considered to be in moderate drought, with nearly one-third of the state in extreme drought, according to the latest United States Drought Monitor report.

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Daily record highs will be challenged at a number of locations in Washington and Oregon.

Washington has been a little better off than Oregon in terms of soil moisture recently, with more than one-third of the state considered to be abnormally dry. Moderate drought was gripping close to 10 of Washington as of July 21.

But even with more moisture in the soil, the weather pattern will still send temperatures to hot levels from the eastern counties to the Pacific coast of the Evergreen State this week. Through Sunday, highs will be within a few degrees of 100 in Spokane, located in eastern Washington.

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Seattle, located along the cool waters of Puget Sound, will peak near 90 from Tuesday through Friday. Farther south along Puget Sound in Washington, Olympia, can expect highs well into the 90s through the end of the week. Temperatures reached 91 in Olympia Monday.

Interior British Columbia will share in the Northwest's heat wave as well. Temperatures in downtown Vancouver are forecast to climb to between 90 and 95 F (32 and 35 C) through Friday.

AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures can climb to several degrees higher than the actual temperature at times throughout the Northwest.

Experts urge people who choose to participate in rigorous exercise or must partake in strenuous physical labor to do so during the early morning or evening hours and increase their intake of fluids. Dehydration can lead to dangerous heat exhaustion and deadly heatstroke.

As the temperature throttles up, combined with a lack of rain in the pattern, the risk of wildfires will increase as grass and brush dry out this week.

Two weather features may expedite the wildfire risk in the coming days.

First, some fringe moisture associated with the North American monsoon over the Southwest Tuesday may expand northward and trigger spotty thunderstorm activity.

This water vapor image of the western United States, captured on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, shows dry air in shades of orange and red and moist air in shades of gray and white. (GOES-West/NOAA)
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"The risk for storms with little rain and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes will begin Wednesday afternoon from Northern California to interior Oregon and will expand eastward through southern Idaho," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

A subsequent storm from the Pacific could increase the risk of wildfire ignition as the month draws to a close and August begins. The storm will help break the heat wave in the region, but it will be at a price.

"A storm at the jet stream level of the atmosphere will swing inland from the Pacific Ocean from Sunday to Tuesday," AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Joe Bauer said. "Along with bringing the risk of thunderstorms with lightning strikes and little rainfall, the system is likely to kick up winds, which can quickly turn a few sparks into a raging fire."

Temperatures will return to normal levels as cooler air moves eastward during the weekend and into next week. Breezes generated by the storm may help to steer pollutants out of the cities next week, but they may cause trouble for firefighters who may have to battle flames.

Although wildfires have become more of a year-round problem in much of the West, fire season ramps up in the Northwest during the second half of the summer as the dry season continues. It eventually winds down during autumn as drenching storms from the Pacific Ocean become more common.

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