Record Heat and Nowhere to Run

With record heat searing the Pacific Northwest, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

Record Heat in Washington

Shock is the only way to describe my reaction to the local news that we’d be experiencing temperatures above 100°F later in the week. After all, this was June! In the Pacific Northwest! In over thirty years of living here, I’d never experienced temperatures even close to what was being forecast.

Dutch Oven
Dutch Oven enchiladas cooked on the beach.

The Effects of Record Heat

These weren’t just uncomfortable temperatures we were facing but dangerous temperatures for a region where the majority of homes have no air conditioning. The human threat was obvious, in fact, 20 deaths were attributed to the heat dome in Washington with Oregon recording 79 deaths. There’s also the economic impact and threat to wildlife in the area.

One unspoken threat was to our beaches where species such as cockles, varnish clams, butter clams, and native littleneck clams—normally buried out of sight—popped to the surface of the substrate in large numbers. Manila clams were also impacted in some areas. Surfaced clams were observed to be gaping, a sign of stress, or had already died from the effects of the heat. Some Pacific and Olympia oysters initially appeared to survive the heat but died in subsequent days, perhaps weakened by the extreme temperatures and unable to recover. In Seattle, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

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With record heat searing the Pacific Northwest, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

Steve Weileman
Dutch Oven Enchiladas

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There are other impacts to take into consideration as well. On the Saturday of the heatwave Seattlites used over 50 million gallons more of freshwater than usual. The freezing level in Western Washington was 18,700 feet, roughly 4,300 feet above the summit of Mount Rainier.

The State Patrol shared photos of an I-5 lane in Shoreline that had crumbled from heat expansion, and a State Patrol trooper near Everson in Whatcom County reported that State Route 544 was closed near milepost 7 because of pavement that buckled to the size of a speedbump. The National Weather Service warned that Western Washington pavement could reach 170°F, a danger for drivers and dog paws.

Latest Instagram

Looking down on our campground from atop Tower Rock. It's a straight 2000' straight drop from here. ...

Driving up to Mosquito Meadows I noticed a dark shadow and gap just off the forest road. This small but picturesque waterfall on Pinto Creek was the reward for pulling off to investigate.⁠ ...

Heading out to Gifford Pinchot National Forest to explore a few new areas. ...

After a week of sitting on the shoreline waiting for the weather on Augustine Island and her volcano, we finally had our chance to paddle over to the mainland. Fortune smiled at us that day! ...

A kayaker making his way across Coldwater Lake with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the background. ...

On May 16, 1898, the North Head Lighthouse was put into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River and still stands as a sentinel overlooking this treacherous body of water, the confluence between the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. ...

This root was near our campsite. I was intrigued because it looks like an entire forest wrapped around it. ...

Mt. St. Helens seen from Windy Ridge. ...

Cispus River with Tower Rock in the background. Our camp was locate on the banks of the river. ...

River bank of the Cispus River inside the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. ...

Headed back to Mt. St. Helens for the weekend. Hoping to visit some of our favorite places as well as discover new ones. ...

Buck Creek is one of the many waterways that feed the Suiattle River. We spotted this view during our last Wild and Scenic Rivers fieldwork. ...

During our recent Wild and Scenic River Survey we had the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. Here's Buck Creek which drains into the Suiattle River. ...

Theresa taking a sample for the Wild and Scenic Rivers project with Adventure Scientist. We'll be heading out to the Suiattle River this weekend for another round of data. ...

Looking out over Crescent Bay from Tongue Point. We recently experienced the lowest tides in a decade here in Washington. ...

Our Escape

We were lucky in that we already had a campsite booked for that weekend on the coast which was approximately 25° cooler than other parts of Western Washington. In fact, in order to maximize the cooling effect we set up a day camp on the beach itself; working and cooking in sight of the cooling waves of the Pacific. We only returned to our campsite after sunset when temperatures dropped even further.

We also limited our activities to those that kept us directly on the beach or nearby jetties. It was just too warm to venture far from the shore breeze.

Of course, the real concern is this going to be our ‘new normal? It is encouraging to hear that local officials are addressing the issue. Let’s hope our leaders follow through with their rhetoric.

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