August 3, 2021

The American West overwhelmed by extreme heat

The meteorological services had been warning for several days against the arrival of a dangerous heat wave. They weren’t mistaken. New manifestation of the major impact of global warming in North America, the Pacific Northwest region, with its usually temperate climate, was covered, Monday, June 28, with an oppressive “heat dome”. In Seattle, Washington, temperatures broke historic records on Sunday: 40 ° C at the airport. Same extreme situation, in Portland, Oregon: 44.4 ° C at the airport. The previous record was 41.6 ° C, reached in July 1965 and August 1981.

The National Weather Service has officially issued an excessive heat advisory, for the third day in a row, advising residents to avoid going outside. The “heat dome” is due to the high pressures, which hold captive the hot air which settled on British Columbia, in Canada, where the national record was also largely exceeded: it was 46.6 ° C, in Lytton, 260 km northwest of Vancouver. The national temperature record in Canada was 45 ° on July 5, 1937, in Saskatchewan.

Read also Canada: “heat dome” in the west causes record temperatures

In the American Northwest, some 13 million people are affected by the heatwave even though they are not prepared for such high temperatures. Air conditioning is rare there: Seattle remains the least equipped of the large American cities, even if the share of air-conditioned homes (44%) has increased by 13 points in four years. The hotels, with their refrigerated rooms, were taken by storm. The city invited residents to take refuge in public libraries.

High temperatures at night

In Oregon, restrictions due to Covid-19 limiting attendance at shopping malls, swimming pools and cinemas have been lifted. Roads were cut, the asphalt suffering from blisters. The Portland streetcar halted service after discovering that electric cables had melted in the heat.

The fact that temperatures remain high at night worries public health officials, because they prevent the body from recovering, especially for the elderly, who are more fragile. Equally worrying, the situation of farm workers, sometimes housed in tents while the cherries of Washington State, known throughout the country, are at the peak of harvest – 4,500 tons each day – and are at risk of withering. ” The pressure is strong to pick them as fast as possible Warns the United Farm Workers union, which calls for federal legislation to suspend work during extreme heat waves.

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