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2021 was Portland's second-hottest year on record

Last summer, numerous records shattered as the relentless heat went on and on — including a heat wave like no other.

PORTLAND, Ore. — If last year felt warmer than usual, there's a reason: 2021 marked the second-warmest year on record for Portland. 

Nationwide, it marked the fourth-warmest year on record.

Last summer, numerous records shattered as the relentless heat went on and on — including a heat wave like no other. 

"It's not uncommon to see a couple of days of reaching 100 degrees or hotter, but to see our records fall like they did in June, where one day we shatter the previous all time high and the next day we do it again and then a third day in a row — that's pretty unique," said Clinton Rockey, a National Weather Service meteorologist. 

Because of that June heat wave, Rockey was not all that surprised that 2021 was the second-warmest year on record, based on temperatures at PDX Airport. 

RELATED: Six months after Oregon's deadly heat wave, what have we learned?

"Last year we had that persistent pattern with a high pressure over the western United States that really blocked us from getting any kind of good cooling at night," he explained.

Rockey compared that high pressure to a rock in a river blocking any sort of cooling storms. He, like other climate experts, projects our changing climate will result in more extreme weather events — more heat waves, but also more and larger storms.

"Where you go really cold or really hot, or really wet or really dry," he said. "That swinging in extremes is more likely what you'll see with climate change as Mother Nature tries to re-establish new climate zones."

These changes are not only causing cities to heat up to record highs, but affecting ocean temperature as well.

"The oceans are warming at a rate now that's eight times faster than we've seen in preceding decades," Rockey said. "The oceans are now the hottest they've ever been."

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The warmer the oceans are, the more intense the storms and the faster the glaciers melt.

"This is an indication of climate change," agreed Oregon's State Climatologist Larry O'Neill.

O'Neill said 2021 was notable not just because of that deadly heat wave, but because of the days above 90 degrees.

"It was the fact that we had so many days of heat waves, of persistent heat that we usually don't get," he said.

It is that persistent heat we will need to take more permanent steps to deal with. People might need to start investing in air conditioners or other ways to keep cool, because climate models show we will continue to gradually warm.

RELATED: OSU researchers' latest climate maps show hotter, drier summers in the PNW

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