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A hot topic.

Byline: Ian Campbell The Register-Guard

There's been only a single day where the temperatature has broken 100 degrees, and no days where a record high has been recorded. It's also rained more this summer than most.

And yet, if you're thinking this seems like one of Eugene's hottest summers in memory, you're not imagining things. According to the National Weather Service, in fact, we're on pace to tie for the hottest summer since 1990.

Since June 22 - the first full day of summer - the daily average temperature at Eugene Airport has been 70.2 degrees. In other words, that's the average for every 24-hour period, from the coolest hour of the night to the warmest hour of the day.

But given the absence of record highs and scorcher days, how can we be living through the hottest summer since the National Weather Service started collecting data in 1892?

"The summer pattern has been kind of 'blah,' " said meteorologist Paul Tolleson of the National Weather Service in Portland. "The big deal is that the minimum temperatures have been pretty mild."

Colby Neuman, also a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said the warmer temperatures have been persistently high because of a warm air mass that is stuck above the Willamette Valley.

"Sometimes the atmosphere gets stuck in a pattern and it's very hard to kick itself out of, especially during the summer," Neuman said. "When the jetstream is really weak during the summer, it allows high pressure areas to stay in place for a long time."

The hottest day of the summer thus far was Aug. 11, when the temperature reached 101. But even that didn't surpass the record for the date, 104 degrees, set in 1992.

While the daytime heat hasn't necessarily been hotter than past years, it's the relatively tepid overnight lows that have helped this summer become one of the warmest on record.

The 70.2 degrees figure may seem modest, especially when referring to record warmth, Tolleson said. But it's important to remember that a daily average is "influenced by the minimum and maximum temperatures."

While nighttime temperatures in the 60s don't seem unbearable, it's those warm nights that allow daytime temperatures to be hotter for longer periods of time, he said.

"It just doesn't allow things to cool off or for the humidity to recover at nighttime," he said.

The average summertime low temperature in Eugene this year has been 54.3 degrees. That's more than 4 degrees higher than the average low in 2010, just five summers ago.

Another paradox: The hotter-than-usual summer has come despite the fact that we've experienced more rain than usual for the summer months.

A total of 1.67 inches of rain fell in Eugene from the first day of summer through Monday - compared to an average of 0.87 inches for that time period. Technically, that means we're in the midst of the 13th wettest summer on record since 1892.

But the statistic may be misleading because 1.12 inches fell in late June; only 0.37 of an inch fell in July, and only 0.18 of an inch thus far this month.

The hot-summer situation is not unique to Eugene among Willamette Valley cities. In fact, the daily averages since June 22 are slightly higher in several cities to the north, including Portland (71.7 degrees) and Salem (71.8).

The coming week portends more of the same in Eugene, with moderately high temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, with no rain in the forecast.

The hot and dry climate has created challenges for fire crews across Oregon, but Tony Andersen with the Oregon Department of Forestry says the heat isn't necessarily the most concerning part of the warm weather.

"Lightning can play a much larger role than hot temperatures," Andersen said. "When you get lightning striking and hitting a bunch or really dry fuel, which is related to hot weather, it can start fires in some really inaccessible places."

Andersen said naturally caused fires this season have consumed nearly 48,000 acres, or more than five times the amount of land affected by man-made fires.

Nevertheless, Andersen said it's important for people going camping or hunting to check the area's fire regulations, carry a shovel and extra water, and make sure all fire pits are cool to the touch before leaving them unattended.

Follow Ian on Twitter @MrCampbell17. Email ian.campbell@registerguard.com.

By the numbers

Warmest daily average from June 22 to Aug. 14:

70.2 degrees: 2014

70.2 degrees: 1990

69.2 degrees: 1967

69.2 degrees: 1992

69.1 degrees: 1958

Source: National Weather Service
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Title Annotation:Weather
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 19, 2014
Words:772
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