Temperatures are finally beginning to drop across Oregon and Washington. With final confirmed high temperature readings coming in from weather stations across the region, here’s three ways to think about how unprecedented this heat wave was.
1) Portland, Salem, and Eugene were the hottest they’ve been in 120 years.
News reports focused on the highs recorded at the Portland Airport, which tended to be highest in the metro area. But a handful of weather stations in Oregon have been recording data for much longer than that site.
Temperature observations for downtown Portland date back to 1874. In Salem and Eugene, the observations began in 1892.
Eugene hit 111 degrees on Sunday and Salem hit 117 degrees on Monday, the highest temperatures in 129 years of record keeping at those sites. Downtown Portland hit 110 degrees Sunday (and likely exceeded that Monday), the hottest temperatures in 147 years of observations.
“I’m in shock. Astounded. Sort of in disbelief, to be honest. I really wasn’t sure this was actually possible here,” said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Portland office.
But one record has not fallen – yet. The hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in Oregon is 119 degrees, a record set in Pendleton on Aug. 10, 1898.
Washington may have tied its highest-ever recorded temperature. Dallesport – which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River across from The Dalles – reached 118 degrees Monday, according to preliminary data. That ties the highest temperature ever recorded in Washington state:
2) Oregon was hotter than everyplace in the United States on Monday — except Death Valley.
June is peak hot season in the deserts of the Southwest, and yet temperatures in Portland and Salem tied or exceeded most places in the Mojave Desert today. At 115 degrees, Portland was hotter than Yuma, Arizona, which was 108.
Salem’s high of 117 is even more astonishing. That’s the highest temperature that’s ever been recorded in Las Vegas.
One place was hotter than the Northwest region on Monday — the temperature in Death Valley reached 120 degrees.
3) Highs were nearly 40 degrees above normal for this time of year — across much of the region.
The average daily high at the Portland Airport on June 28 is 77 degrees. At 115 degrees, temperatures on Monday were 38 degrees above average. Forecasters say what truly made the heat wave so unusual — and devastating — was the regional scale. Records were met or broken across the region, from Medford to Seattle to The Dalles.
“I think that’s what makes this event remarkable. This isn’t just a hot event, that one or two sites barely exceed their all time record temperature,” said Newman.