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Record-setting January heatwave in Seattle ends

Had January’s heatwave come in July, Seattle’s nights would have been miserable.

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Seattle skyline on a cloudy day as seen from Alki Beach in West Seattle.

[WBHG News 24 – Kirkland] – It isn’t unusual for Seattle to tickle 60 degrees in January, but to reach or pass 60 degrees four days in a row was enough to set a new heatwave record. It stayed above 50 degrees for 5.5 days – 131 hours from January 27 to February 1, and three new high-temperature records were added to the books.

Weather records

DateNormal LowNormal High2024 Low2024 High
January 2738° F49° F48° F -50° F at 11:00 AM56° F
January 2838° F49° F51° F61° F – record
January 2938° F49° F51° F61° F – record
January 3038° F49° F51° F60° F – record
January 3138° F49° F53° F60° F
February 138° F49° F47° F – 50° F at 10:00 PM58° F
High and low temperatures versus average at Seatac Airport from January 27 to February 1, 2024

The four-day streak broke the previous three-day record set in 2015, which was also the warmest January in modern history, with an average high of 49.9 degrees. Because 2024 was a fire and ice experience with a cold snap from the 11th to the 18th, the average high was 45.74-degrees, but still more than 4 degrees above normal.

Does this prove climate change

Weather is not climate, and climate is not weather. A singular weather event, like a four-day heatwave, does not prove climate change, just as a seven-day cold snap does not disprove it. Since 1981, the average daily high in January has increased by 1.4 degrees, and the average low climbed 2.6 degrees. Almost all climatologists agree that part of that broader increase, and our increasingly wet weather, has been caused by human activity.

What was unusual about the 2024 winter heatwave was how warm the low temperatures were from January 28 to 31 – 13 to 15 degrees above normal. Had the January heatwave been in July, Seattle’s low temperatures would have been 70, 70, 70, and 72. How warm would that have been? The warmest low temperature in Seattle’s history was 73 degrees during the June 2021 “heatpocalypse.” It would have been misery for the region, which has the second-lowest number of air-conditioned buildings and homes in the United States.

What’s next

As for the week ahead, starting Saturday, normal temperatures are returning, with highs near 50 and lows close to 40. Saturday will be cloudy but dry, and Sunday should be pleasant under party-cloudy skies.

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