Trees and plants are booming after a record wet winter and now record spring warmth.
Seattle is basking in record heat, with an unprecedented third day in a row in the 80s forecast for Tuesday.
Monday afternoon, the thermometer topped out at 89 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — the warmest day ever recorded in Seattle in April. On Sunday, it had hit 80.
The previous record for the hottest day in April was 85 degrees, set April 30, 1976. The record high for April 18 was 77 degrees, set in 1962.
Looking at an April record
The high of 80 degrees at Sea-Tac International Airport broke the record of 74, set in 1983.
Monday’s high of 89 at 3:30 p.m. crushed April 18’s previous record of 77, set in 1962.
The National Weather Service predicts a high of 84 Tuesday. The record is 74, set in 1956.
Tuesday temperatures also are expected to be in the 80s, with a high of 84 predicted, courtesy of warm inland air, according to the National Weather Service.
The warmth will last until Wednesday, when marine air is expected to cool things down. There may even be thundershowers Thursday. We’ll be back to normal by the weekend with high temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
Umbrellas were frequently seen around Seattle on Monday — but for shade, not rain.
The digital editorial team from Nordstrom was among throngs of people enjoying the Washington Park Arboretum, complete with white tablecloths, croquet on the lawn, sliced cucumbers in sweating decanters of ice water, and strawberries lolling in lemonade. One picnicker said she was bringing back the parasol.
Other visitors stood agog amid towering azaleas in purple, yellow, white and pink.
It was a day for en plein-air painting, a stroll without a shirt, or digging out the shorts and sandals. The plants were just as head over heels with the weather.
The average temperature this month so far has been five degrees above the normal average for April, and leaf development and bloom time of flowers are as much as three weeks ahead of schedule. Trees and flowers, after a great winter soaking of record rain, were primed for spring, and now they are exploding in all the early warmth and sun.
Ferns are stretching themselves tall and filling out, and maples already are in full flower and developing seed pods.
At the Seattle Japanese Garden, an inchworm worked busily at the fresh new leaves spreading broad and soft on a big-leaf maple, already casting summer-deep shade, the leaves are so large.
Red-eared slider turtles jockeyed for position in the sun by the reflecting pool, blinking in the brightness and luxuriating in the heat baking their dark shells.
Showers of rhododendron flowers cast a snowy carpet under shrubs dropping blossoms they had pushed out so early. The delicate, flame-red tipped leaves of Japanese maples glowed with color.
Chickadees called sweetly and bumblebees bumbled in the bloom. Even a hosta was already blooming — usually a summer event. “That’s way off base,” said gardener Andrew Gillespie as she pulled spent flowers off an azalea.
Wisteria unfurled luxuriantly, its blooms puffed clouds of purple and its scent heavy on the air. You could follow your nose from flower to flower, and even the ground had that baked-bark scent typical in late summer, but not spring.
Tom Hinckley, emeritus professor of forest ecology at the University of Washington, said spring started early — Seattle last saw freezing temperatures Jan. 9 — and strings of warm days since have just kept accelerating nature’s calendar.
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So much so, he wondered how well soil moisture will hold out as plants put forth their abundance of leaves and new growth.
This is Seattle’s second early spring in a row, and it seems even earlier than last year’s, Hinckley said, with Indian plum in flower by the end of January along the Burke-Gilman Trail. Even after a record wet winter, all this heat still could challenge plants. “With this huge flourish of growth,” Hinckley said, “soil moisture levels are going to dry down much faster than normal.”
Sarah Reichard, director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, said bloom and leaf development is so early this year she wonders if she’ll be able to teach some of the units in her plant-identification class in May.
“Some things will already be passing; things are just crazy early. Everything is blooming at once.”