Near-record set of dry days ends

System causing U.S. heat wave out, fall weather moves in

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

Juneau weather returned to normal Friday, when an afternoon shower ended the near-record spell of dry warm weather.

Before 0.03 inches fell Friday, the last measurable rain was Aug. 4, according to climate data from the National Weather Service. The 12-day dry streak matched, but didn't break, a 1949 record for most consecutive days in August without rain.

"We tied it," said National Weather Service forecaster Mike Mitchell. Now it's "back to typical weather for Southeast Alaska."

Temperatures also returned to a more normal 62 degree high Friday, after five days in the 70s.

Typically stretches of dry weather come in June or July. Though it's rare to get extended dry periods in August, the last month of summer is sometimes hot. In August 1994 Juneau experienced 13 days of temperatures above 70, with only 0.01 inches of rain breaking an otherwise record drought. But the last few summers have been wetter, Mitchell said.

"It's been three or four years when we haven't had any long stretches of dry weather in the summer," Mitchell said. "That's why everyone enjoyed it so much. We were due."

The dry weather more than made up for a wet July, putting Juneau 2.37 inches behind in normal rainfall for August and 0.77 inches behind in rainfall since June. But when the wet winter and spring are taken into account, the year is still running on the wet side with nearly 32 inches of precipitation since New Year's, about 4 inches more than normal.

The warm weather was part of a coast-to-coast heat wave caused by a blocking pattern in the Gulf of Alaska, where a high weather front was sitting on a low front, blocking the jet stream and keeping weather stable.

"This blocking pattern finally moved in," Mitchell said. "Everyone's weather all across the northern hemisphere is changing right now."

The windy weather is holding off until after the Golden North Salmon Derby, which was blessed with calm waters, Mitchell said. The first gale of the season is crossing the gulf now. It will wait brush by Southeast Alaska Monday and head to the Pacific Northwest.

"The pattern change is inching us toward fall and it's on time," Mitchell said. "It's time to start thinking about gales and storms coming up."

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