TBD's D.C. Heat Watch: Countdown to a record!

One day to go for the weather record
67 days at 90 degrees or higher (Photo: TBD Staff)

UPDATE Oct. 11, 3:44 p.m. It doesn't look like we're going to make it all the way folks. With the temperature reading 87.1 at Reagan National at 3 p.m., Robert Thomas Ryan (aGa meteorologist Bob Ryan) himself says that today was our last chance to reach 90 this calendar year and it will only rise to 88 today at the most.


Long story short

D.C. area moving toward record-setting summer of heat.


UPDATE Sept. 25, 4:15 p.m.: ABC 7's Steve Rudin reports that today was day 67 with highs at or above 90 degrees in Washington, D.C., tying the old record set in 1980. Cooler air on the way along with rain and the chance for severe weather Monday night into Tuesday.

UPDATE Sept. 24, 4:07 p.m.: The National Weather Service is reporting "enhanced wildfire threat" for Maryland and parts of Virginia and W.Va. this afternoon and into the evening.

And TBD's Erik Wemple calls out the U. S. Drought Monitor for dissing the capital city.

UPDATE Sept. 24, 3:37 p.m.: ABC7 Stormwatch reports: A new record high has been reached at Reagan National of 98 degrees and the record has also been broken at Dulles Airport as it hit 95 degrees. BWI Thurgood Marshall stands 1 degree away from the record high of 95.

UPDATE Sept. 24 1:04 p.m.: It's 91 degrees and rising! And it's nearly October! Only two more days!

UPDATE Sept. 23, 3:22 p.m. Reagan National Airport recorded 92 degrees at 2:52 p.m. on Thursday, the National Weather Service reported. That marks the 65th day of 90-plus-degree temperatures in the Washington region. The record of 67 90-plus-degree days was set in 1980.

UPDATE Sept. 22, 3:37 p.m. Reagan National has recorded a high temperature of 91 degrees, the 64th day of 90-degree-plus temperatures so far this year. On Sept. 16, Reagan National recorded 91 degrees.

UPDATE Sept. 8, Noon: Reagan National reached 90 degrees just before noon today, warming up faster than the last few 90+ days. Also, in case you were wondering, 90 degrees Fahrenheit is about 32.2 degrees Celsius.

UPDATE Sept. 7, 3:15 p.m.: Crossing the threshold to Day 61 with plenty of room to spare -- it was 93 degrees today at Reagan National as of 2:52 p.m.

UPDATE Sept. 3, 3:52 p.m.: Reagan National pegs us at exactly 90.0 degrees. Day 60 has arrived.

UPDATE Sept. 2, 1:55 p.m.: You guessed it . . . Reagan National squeezed in one more day above 90 degrees before Hurricane Earl is expected to meet with a cold front this weekend.

UPDATE Sept. 1, 12:55 p.m.: It's true -- the temperature at Reagan is 93 degrees with a heat index of 95.

UPDATE Sept. 1, 12:21 p.m.: We suspect it will hit 90 by 1 p.m. at Ronald Reagan Washington National, according to NOAA's site. We'll retract if that turns out to be untrue.

UPDATE Aug. 31, 11:16: It's getting hotter and hotter, earlier and earlier. NOAA reported 90 degrees right at 11 a.m. And some people are saying the heat index will hover around 100 degrees today. Wowza. Luckily, that silly hurricane is supposed to bring with it cooler weekend weather.

UPDATE Aug. 30, 12:13 p.m.: Look, it suddenly became 91.9 degrees at noon. The hour wait for NOAA's temps really can make for big swings. It rose almost four degrees in an hour! See a more extensive analysis of how the record-temperature trend is going here, featuring Robert Thomas Ryan (Bob Ryan to Google).

UPDATE Aug. 20, 2 p.m.: Finally, at 2 on the nose, NOAA's website reloads and announces the temperature at TBD's flagship airport — Ronald Reagan Washington National — has gone up two degrees in just an hour. We've got one more above-90-degree day on our hands!

UPDATE Aug. 17, 4:05 p.m.: Looks like we managed to squeeze another 90-degrees-plus day in between the rain. We've made the adjustment to our handy chart and will be watching to see how many more of these 90-degrees-or-hotter days we can count before the end of August. It's going to be close!

UPDATE Aug. 16, 3:55 p.m.: According to the StormWatch team at ABC7, we crested 90 degrees today (though for some, according the weather data, it felt like 100. Either way, that counts as another day closer to the record of 67 days at 90 degrees or above.

Original Story: If you're rooting for a record-breaking hot 2010, ABC7 senior meteorologist and vice president of digital weather Robert Thomas Ryan, has some soothing news for you: "The atmosphere has a memory."

We knew the atmosphere had some gases, that it retained some heat, and that it had some proximity to outer space. But the total recall thing shocks.

"When we get into these patterns, especially in the middle of the season, patterns tend to persist," says the 67-year-old Ryan. The summer of 2009 supports Ryan's pronouncements on climatological persistence; it dawned cool and nice and stayed cool and nice. There's little chance that the summer of 2010 is going to take a turn toward the mood of its predecessor. "It's very unlikely that we're going to see, especially in the middle of August, the cool, refreshing pattern that we had last summer."

Time to rejoice. If Ryan's correct — and he commonly is; that's why he works here — we'll have no trouble racking up more at-90-degrees-or-above days until we reach a record. Says Ryan: "Like many things, if you're getting this close, heading toward a record, what the heck."

The region's weather needs to get right to work on the task at hand. So let's turn to the outlook for a nine ball on the merc this afternoon. Whaddaya say, Ryan? "There's a weak front near us and we're going to be on the edge of 90," says the meteorologist. Seems that the air over D.C. right now is acting something like a couch potato. "It's just still around us — no big huge shifts in the pattern." There are no strong winds and "nothing that we could call refreshing," he says. Look for highs in the upper 80s, and perhaps one step closer to a landmark. "Some people might say tomorrow will be cooler. I would say it's not as hot."

Speaking of hot, Ryan is an expert. This is a guy who moved to the District in — you're not going to believe this, but it was 1980, the current record-holding year for days at 90 or above (67). Ryan trucked down with his family from Connecticut and settled into a four-story home in Wesley Heights, just a stone's throw from the NBC4 studios where he became a local institution. The Ryan family hit town in March, and it wasn't so hot at that point.

July, August, and September of James Earl Carter's last full year in office, however, were other matters. "Springtime in Washington was lovely," says Ryan. "By early August, I thought I had moved my family to hell." Hell in a mid-'70s Saab EMS with no air-conditioning, no less. Ryan would lower the windows to let the stagnant air in. In a bit of meteorological-automobilistic irony, Ryan, then 37, had bought the Saab to drive to work through big snowstorms (Saabs were known for plowing through drifts).

Though Ryan could see the heat coming better than anyone else, he was no more prepared for it than the average viewer. See, the main bedroom of his Wesley Heights rental was on the fourth floor, a setup that created a classic air-conditioning conundrum: In order to properly cool the bedroom, the basement would end up at "50 degrees." Ryan would occasionally move downstairs to a cooler room.

The heat of 1980 hit particularly hard in September, which recorded an astounding 14 days in the delicious record-setting zone. One day that month, Ryan awoke to do his WRC radio broadcast, only to find that the temperature was 83.6 degrees. "I said, 'What the hell,'" recalls the veteran weatherman. That may have been a low point.

An insider's view of the 1980 swelter comes from Ryan himself. He says that there were calibration gaps at the temperature-recording station at National Airport that year, yielding the possibility that it actually experienced more at-90-or-above days than history has recorded. All the more work for us in 2010.