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Baked Potato: Boise's Pre-Summer Heat Wave

Triple-digit temperatures return to the Treasure Valley


Brace yourself Idaho. Here comes the heat. Again. While meteorologists have all kinds of gizmos and scientific models that point them to precise forecasts, it didn't take Jay Breidenbach, meteorologist and senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service Office, to use a word not often heard in long-range forecasts: "Whooosh."

"We've had some nice weather lately, highs in the mid-70s. But when you add 15 to 20 degrees, it's going to be... Whooosh... hot," he said. "We're forecasting temperatures hitting the 90s by Friday, June 3 and close to 100 by Sunday, June 5. That would smash the record for that date, 95 degrees."

Breidenbach had just emerged from the latest briefing at the NWS office in Boise when he told Boise Weekly, "It's going to be a bit of a shock to the system."

Among the weather patterns that Breidenbach and his NWS colleagues are keeping a close eye on was a significant system of high pressure building over the region.

"It's much like what you might see in the middle of summer, perhaps in late June or sometime in July, but here we are at the beginning of June," he said.

Triple digits first settled in the Treasure Valley last year on June 26, bringing an unwelcome blast of furnace-like heat. Boise registered nine consecutive days exceeding 100 degrees, peaking June 29, 2015 at what Breidenbach called an "astounding" 110 degrees.

Offering some relief in this year's immediate forecast, Breidenbach was quick to add that "heat waves come and go." That said, Breidenbach said his latest forecast model indicates a better chance of warmer-than-normal days in the months ahead.

"We're coming out of an El Nino year in 2015," said Breidenbach, referring to the periodic warming of the regions of the Pacific Ocean. "And while we're seeing some of the temperatures in the Central Pacific beginning to cool off, the residual of that is pointing to warmer conditions over the Western U.S."

As for long-range forecasting—the predictions that extend far beyond the usual 10 or 15 days—Breidenbach said the NWS has to turn to historic trends. Most of those signs also point to hotter summers ahead.

"We've definitely seen warmer summers over the past decade," he said. "And we don't see any reason that would end."

While triple-digit temperatures may be a burden for Idaho's recreation industry, perhaps the greatest fear is that record-setting heat will trigger yet another bad season for wildfires. In 2015, fire burned more than 712,000 acres in Idaho and firefighting costs hit $60 million.

"That string of 100-degrees last June dried out our forests and rangeland. And when a lightning strike follows, it can contribute to a pretty bad fire season," said Breidenbach. "Right now, our forests are nice and green. But whoosh, you have a heat wave like the one we're about to have and things start drying out pretty fast."