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Lots of Sunshine, Blue Skies, Heat And Risk Of Northwest Wildfires In The Week Ahead

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Macey Pirak, 5, reaches for the hand of her friend Carrie Gray as they scramble over rocks on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at a beach on the Puget Sound in Mukilteo, Wash. Temperatures are expected to hit near 90 in nearby Seattle.

Where there’s heat, there is often fire. The fire risk on both sides of the Cascade Mountains is high in the week ahead, as temperatures will be zooming up as high as 90 degrees after a rather dry June.

The forecast is a steady prediction for clear skies, lots of sun and heat for about as far as the eye can see – or as computer models can predict, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

“You hardly need a meteorologist this week,” said Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

"What we have is a flat ridge. It’s an area of high pressure, mainly to the south of us,” he said. “We’re going to be staying pretty much the same for the next five to seven days.”

Temps Headed To 90 Degrees

Mass says this means we could see temperatures above normal for this time of year.

“80s? You better like it, because we’re going to be there – mid 80s to upper 80s, even 90 in the warmer locations during the next few days. And sun, very little clouds in the interior and virtually no chance of precipitation,” he said.

That’s the pattern to expect for several days ahead, he said.

“The only place that will see some low clouds will be the coast, which will be somewhat cooler,” Mass said.

So it will be quite warm, but not extreme heat. That’s because he says there is no offshore flow in the outlook. That would be the key ingredient for stoking the temps into the mid-90s and beyond.

“We won’t see any of that, but it’s going to be warm and at least five to ten degrees above normal, through the next week.” Mass said.

Wildfire Risk Is High, So Be Careful

Last year at this time, smoke was blanketing the region, coming primarily from British Columbia. This year, we had a cooler June and less lightning, so there’s nothing major going on – yet, says Mass.

He warns that even though there’s almost no risk of lightning in the week ahead, that could change as summer progresses. With the warmer temps and dry weather ahead, there will soon be more than plenty of dry fuels such as vegetation and underbrush that could quickly ignite if any kind of spark touches it. Mass says people should be very careful not to accidentally start a blaze.

“Quite frankly, the responsibility is ours,” he said. “If we are careful not to ignite any fires from any kind of source – from fireworks, doing fires in the wilderness, etc. – if we’re very careful, I think we can prevent any major outbreaks of fire during the next few weeks.”

To hear the full conversation, including Cliff’s discussion of how the fire risk is on both sides of the Cascade Mountains now and the role of lightning in the fire-weather forecast, you can click on the 'play' icon at the top of this post.

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, anda popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, viaiTunes or Google Play.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to