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Seattle summer nets 10,000 minutes of 80 degrees (...almost)

Photo courtesy: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

This summer has seemingly had endless moments of sunshine and warmth.

How many moments? How about 10,000 of them?

Well, almost.

Back in 2011, when it was a nearly polar opposite summer and warm days were few and very far between, I created a Twitter feed @SummerMinutes and started counting the minutes Seattle was above 80 degrees at the University of Washington, which publishes minute-by-minute temperature data (and was closer to the heart of Seattle than Sea-Tac.) I figured 80 was a good bench mark for what Seattleites would consider warm and summer-like and I had noticed that year the two days it reached 80 by mid-July, it seemed very brief. (More background on the tally's origin here.)

Turns out, it added up to less than a jaunt to the latest Hollywood blockbuster -- a full 78 minutes of 80 degree weather through late July. But with some warm weather at the buzzer in September, Seattle managed 3,323 minutes above 80 degrees.

Subsequent summers haven't been that chilly, but I've been keeping tabs ever since, mostly out of morbid curiosity, but also as a unique way to quantify just how much warm weather we've had over a given summer. There were nearly 4,400 minutes of 80 degree weather in 2012, and over 5,400 in 2013. Ho hum...

But this year has been something different -- days on end of 80s, including two streaks of a week or more that warm. We blew through 4,000 minutes, then 5,000...then 6,000 already reaching 6,155 minutes when August arrived.

The heat just kept on coming -- a 94 degree day on August 11th added 675 minutes in one day. 7,000... 8,000... 9,000....

And that brings us to our 84-degree day Wednesday -- the fourth day in the last five warmer than 80, but the last 80+ day on the extended forecast board for a while. We entered the day at 9,634 minutes and a chance to reach the 10,000 mark with a day in the mid 80s. We just needed to squeeze out 6 hours and 6 minutes more of 80 degree weather.

And... it was close, but the temperature dropped below 80 degrees 21 minutes shy of the goal. We ended the day at 9,979 minutes -- still quite a bit of aggregate warmth! That adds up to 166.3 hours, or nearly a full week's worth of 80 degree weather. It's triple the warmth of the hapless summer of 2011.

Some years this millennium have indeed been warmer thanks to a head start with several 80 degree days in May and June and a very warm September-- 2009 totaled over 11,500 minutes and 2006 holds the highest amount since 2000 at 13,232. Our June this year was a big, fat zero, so we're shadowing those years with a month tied behind our back. Could we reach those lofty goals anyway?

The 80s are on hiatus for a while -- a cool, showery regime is about to take hold for the next 7-10 days. But 80s are still possible in September (we average about 738 minutes in September) and as I wrote Tuesday, long range models are predicting a warmer-than-normal September. So 10,000 minutes of 80 degree weather is still a possibility this year.

For now, we'll call it: "Close enough."

Summer Minutes since 2000:

*Includes 191 minutes from April

You can get a daily tally of Seattle's "Summer minutes" by following its official Twitter account @SummerMinutes

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