A look back at temperature patterns of summers past

By Janet Stevens / The Bulletin


Published Aug 23, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

This may not have been the hottest summer I have lived through in my 60 years in Bend, but it certainly has felt like it. So much so, in fact, that I spent the last couple of afternoons looking through newspapers from 50 and 25 years ago in an effort to confirm my feeling. What I discovered was a mixed bag.

First, a caveat. Records for 1963 and 1988 are not complete, unfortunately, though it’s possible to detect trends even then. For example, it’s difficult to believe that it fell to freezing on a night that’s missing when the nights before and after are in the upper 40s.

This summer certainly hasn’t had the hottest day in Bend history. Not once in June, July and the first 20 days of August did the temperature hit triple digits, in fact, though it has done so more than once since I’ve lived here.

No, the hottest day ever recorded in Bend came in 1936, according to weather.com, when the temperature hit a scorching 104 degrees. The ’30s, by the way, also saw the community’s coldest night ever, minus 26 degrees, in 1933.

Record-breaking temps aside, this summer is different from the summers of 1963 and 1988.

We’ve had only one night in which the temperature dropped below freezing this summer, on June 3. Growing up, I learned from just about every adult I knew that thanks in large part to our elevation, we could have a freezing night on any date of the year.

Thus, it was no surprise to me to learn that the overnight low on July 5, 1988, was 30 degrees, or that in June 1963, there were overnight lows in the upper 20s twice and in the 30s at least 11 times. In fact, there were temps in the 30s in all three summer months of both 1963 and 1988.

The assurance of random chilly nights shaped my gardening — or lack of gardening — habits. When I can bestir myself, I plant some time in June and then simply hope for the best. No starting things indoors, no Wall O Water, no nothing. If it dies, it dies.

My gardens tend to be heavy on such things as beets and peas, light on more delicate crops of tomatoes and the like. The year my eldest was born, I finally gave up on geraniums, which by the middle of July I had replanted three times.

There are some similarities among the three years, at least one of which I knew intuitively. Mid-June is pretty darned nice around here many years, with a week or so of days in the 80s and nights in the 40s or low 50s, plenty cool enough for sleeping. Those nice days may be sandwiched between ones with highs in the 50s, to be sure, but that only serves to make them all the more enjoyable.

While we have set no heat or cold records so far this summer, it has been warmer than usual.

In 1963, there were 22 days between June 1 and Aug. 20 with highs in the 70s scattered through all three months. Twenty-five years later, in 1988, there were 24 such days, plus a bonus day on June 5 when the temperature rose only to 47 degrees.

This summer, there have been 10 days with highs in the 70s, all but two of them in June. Nor are daytime highs in the 50s and 60s uncommon, or at least they haven’t been so until this summer. The high hasn’t stayed in the 60s this summer since June 27.

The real difference comes in our overnight lows this year. In June, the low stayed at 50 or above four times; in July, it did so 17 times and so far this month it has stayed up 16 times.

It was a different story in 1963, when no night in June or July stayed above 50. In 1988, nights stayed that warm about 20 times overall.

I’m not prepared to draw conclusions from all this, nor should anyone else. As I said earlier, it’s far from scientific. I do know one thing, however. Summer evening outdoor parties are a possibility this year in a way they never were when I was small. Warmer overnight lows mean much more pleasant evenings — no coats needed — after all.