Water, elevation the only escapes from above-normal highs

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The heat was on for the last several days in the Walla Walla Valley as a strong high pressure system from the southwestern U.S. maintained a flow of hot and dry air into our area. Weekend highs topped out in the upper 90s to 100 degrees — or about 10-12 degrees above normal for this time of year.

Sunday afternoon saw an amazingly xeric relative humidity reading of 9 percent. In an effort to make the sufferers appreciate how well off they really are, the Pollyannas inevitably trotted out the same old saw, for the millionth or so time: “At least it’s a dry heat.” That is all well and good if you are hanging your wash out on a line in the back yard, but it does not make the burn on the back of your thighs from your superheated vinyl car seats feel a whole lot better.

For those who have already had their fill of summer weather (like your heavily perspiring prognosticator), there are only two alternatives: seek refuge near water or in the higher elevations. And so it was the latter that was opted for this past weekend as man, woman and dogs headed south out of Pomeroy into the Blue Mountains to the cooling pine forests at Teal Spring campground (elevation 5,600 feet) where afternoon highs in the low to mid-80s quickly dropped off after a spectacular sunset to the low 40s just before daybreak. In a word, heaven.

The culpable high pressure will only grudgingly relax as the week goes by. A weak disturbance migrating north and east from California may import a bit of midlevel monsoon moisture into southern and eastern Oregon today and Wednesday. Locally, however, the air is so dry that the passage of this system here will be marked perhaps by just a cloud or two.

A Gulf of Alaska low sliding south into British Columbia may flatten the ridge just enough to provide some slight cooling by week’s end. The current 16-day GFS outlook offers some real hope for moderating temperatures at the beginning of next week, with highs dipping into the low or mid-80s at that time as a trough of low pressure becomes established over the Pacific Northwest. If that outlook is to be believed, the relief will only be temporary as triple-digit highs pop back up for the period of August 5-7.

The inveterate gamblers out there may care to know that the Climate Prediction Center last week released its three-month outlook for the period August through October, which indicates a better than even chance for warmer than normal temperatures during that time frame for the Walla Walla Valley. This forecast has put your weatherperson in a real quandary. Professionally, as a viticulturist, that outlook is a dream come true for the perfect ending to a long grape growing season that would practically ensure fully ripe fruit with maximum flavor and color development. Personally, he would rather see his vines completely devoid of leaves and a hint of snow in the air — two very disparate visions indeed.

And speaking of gambling, your forecaster is headed this week to a place where sane folks who wish to escape the heat don’t normally go in the summer — Las Vegas — to help his lovely daughter celebrate her 21st birthday and place a sizable wager on the Baltimore Orioles to win the 2013 World Series. You can bet with absolute certainty that his hotel room thermostat will be set at a very comfortable 68 degrees during the entire length of his stay and that only a fire or an earthquake will get him to venture outdoors for even a moment.

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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