Record-Breaking Heat Waves Have Arrived Decades Earlier Than Predicted

Bright sun in orange, cloudless sky over city
As the heat wave impacts accumulate, many will suffer cascading health consequences.

BYSasha AbramskyTruthoutPUBLISHEDJuly 27, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

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The heat waves of 2021, which have pummeled western regions of the United States and Canada, have killed, at a minimum, hundreds of people. In British Columbia, authorities recorded a spike in deaths in the nearly 500-range after temperatures soared to near 120 degrees; and in both Oregon and Washington State, dozens more are known to have died.

Yet those numbers, horrific as they are, do not tell the full story of the devastation caused by this summer’s record-breaking temperatures caused by a climate catastrophe that, until recently, even the most pessimistic climatologists thought was still two or three decades out. Indeed, the mortality data show that recent deaths were not simply a result of just one extreme “heat event.” There have already been a series of “heat domes” — a phenomenon in which extreme heat generated by warm ocean air is trapped under a high-pressure cap — parked over the western part of the continent this summer, with more on the way.

As this trend continues, each of those domes will bring death in its wake, and each will compound the damage inflicted by previous heat events, as vulnerable people fall prey to a lethal combination of heat, pollution, isolation and a lack of access to air conditioners and cooling centers. Moreover, as the heat wave impacts accumulate, many will suffer cascading health consequences. This has already been seen in earlier extreme heat events around the world. Perhaps most notoriously, in Europe in 2003, epidemiologists now estimate that a weeks-long heat wave spiked mortality on the continent by between 50,000 and more than 70,000 deaths. That’s almost as many people dying per week of heat-related ailments in 2003 as died of COVID each week on the continent at the height of the pandemic in 2020, when deaths in Europe peaked at about 40,000 per week.

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Awful as the recent numbers coming out of the western U.S. are, those preliminary numbers do not tell the full story of excess mortality — a story that takes time to fully investigate. Moreover, they do not tell the more intimate story of who is getting sick and dying, and of the disparate impact — too often ignored in the broader political conversation — of these increasingly devastating environmental cataclysms on poorer communities of color.

“When it comes to heat waves and the violence they produce, we have this will not to know that makes it very difficult to act,” explains Eric Klinenberg, a New York University professor of sociology and author of the 2002 book Heat Wave, about a lethal weather event in Chicago in the summer of 1995 that resulted in hundreds of isolated, mainly elderly residents dying. “There’s something existentially challenging about absorbing the reality of climate change, what it means for how we live, how we settle, how we organize our lives. The health risks of heat are hard for people to understand — because they’re not like fires or hurricanes or earthquakes where everyone can recognize the threat. Heat doesn’t feel scary to most Americans, because we’re one of the most air-conditioned, artificially cooled nations on Earth — so it’s hard to generate political will to protect poor people in heat waves.”

Yet, of course, not everyone has access to air-conditioning (or even to homes in which air-conditioning could be installed). While an estimated 87 percent of Americans do have some air-conditioning (even if only a wall unit) in their homes, that leaves 13 percent, and a far higher percentage in poorer communities, particularly vulnerable during sudden temperature increases. A Residential Consumption Survey from 2015 showed a direct correlation between household income level and availability of air-conditioning: Nearly three in four households with income above $100,000 had central air-conditioning, while barely half of households with incomes of under $40,000 did. (Of course, air conditioners, while necessary in large parts of the world as the planet heats up, are hardly a cost-free panacea, since AC systems themselves feed into a vicious cycle of adding heat-generating pollutants into the atmosphere.)“We have a climate emergency, a racial justice emergency, an inequality emergency and a social infrastructure emergency.”

And even for those who do have some air-conditioning, recent studies have shown that poorer, nonwhite urban neighborhoods — with higher population densities, fewer shade trees and historically less emphasis on efficient urban design — experience far higher temperatures than do wealthier, more planned communities in the same cities. These differences hold in big metropolitan areas and small towns alike, and the research shows that communities with a higher percentage of African American and Latino residents tend to have hotter temperatures than do whiter population centers. Because of the legacy of redlining, which relegated African American populations, in particular, to less desirable physical locations in cities, those districts tend to be more at risk of flooding or particulate pollution — and, now, of heat extremes because of global warming. Older people and socially isolated people also experience a highly disproportionate number of heat wave deaths, according to Klinenberg.

In the coming years, Klinenberg fears, the U.S. is uniquely ill-positioned to deal with the consequences of an escalating global warming crisis. “We have a climate emergency, a racial justice emergency, an inequality emergency and a social infrastructure emergency,” he argues. “We have to deal with the fact that there is grotesque poverty in the United States, and that cities are heat ovens. That combination of poverty and urban heat leaves our vulnerability to climate events extreme. We still have a chance to avert the worst possibilities with climate change, but we still have centuries of warming baked in because of greenhouse gas emissions we’ve already put out into the atmosphere. So we have no choice but to adapt.”

Don’t blame men for the climate crisis – we should point the finger at corporations

Arwa Mahdawi

Male spending – on petrol and meat – is apparently worse for the environment than women’s. But it’s the system, not individuals, that needs to change

Man eating a burger while driving
‘The problem isn’t that certain men spend more on motoring and meat – it’s the obsession with economic growth at any cost.’ Photograph: Srinrat Wuttichaikitcharoen/Getty Images/EyeEm

Tue 27 Jul 2021 11.30 EDT

Sorry, boys, but it’s all your fault. Melting ice capsflash floodsrising sea levels: men are to blame for the lot of it. Please don’t drown the messenger, I’m just relaying the results of a Swedish study that found that men’s spending habits cause 16% more climate-heating emissions than women’s. The biggest difference seems to be that men spend more money on petrol. Another big difference: the men surveyed bought more meat than women. So this is the way the world ends, eh? Not with a bang, but with blokes eating too many burgers.

I don’t know how many studies published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology go viral, but this paper has had an enormous amount of traction. Of course, this is largely because its findings leant themselves to delicious clickbait such as Men Are Worse for Climate Change Than Women Because They Love Meat and Cars. To be fair, the study didn’t lean into gender war territory in the way you would expect based on the headlines it generated. Gender wasn’t even mentioned in the paper’s title, which was “Shifting expenditure on food, holidays, and furnishings could lower greenhouse gas emissions by almost 40%”.AdvertisementBlack women’s hair products are killingus. Why isn’t more being done? | Tayo Bero

The climate crisis is undoubtedly a feminist issue. Climate change exacerbates increasing inequality and hits women harder than men. UN data suggests that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. However, while gender is an important part of the climate crisis conversation – and an essential part of its solution – it is not helpful to focus on the gender-based spending habits of ordinary consumers. Placing the burden of mitigating climate change on individuals, no matter their gender, feels futile as we watch corporations and the 1%, who are the main drivers of climate change, do whatever the hell they like. I am not saying we don’t all need to do our part; of course we do. But it’s galling to be lectured on the evils of flying while billionaires are fawned over for shooting themselves into space.

While it’s always convenient to blame men for the dire state of the world, you can’t get around the fact that women in rich countries (myself included) are responsible for far more emissions than men in poor countries. The problem isn’t that certain men are spending more on motoring and meat than their female counterparts – it’s the obsession with economic growth at any cost. The rich world does the bulk of the sowing, while the poor world does most of the reaping.

Just look at what is happening in Madagascar. More than a million people are facing desperate food shortages due to what has been called the first famine in modern history caused by global heating alone. “This is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now they’re the ones paying the highest price,” said an executive from the UN World Food Programme last week.

We are not going to fix the climate crisis by shaming largely powerless individuals or getting men in the west to eat more plant-based burgers; it can be fixed only through systemic change.

Alas, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. That adage feels truer every day. While us plebs keep being told we have to change our habits, the masters of the universe have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of changing theirs. Worse still is the fact that billionaires and corporations seem intent on having us believe not only that their greed isn’t ruining the world, but that it will in fact be its salvation. “We have to go to space to save Earth,” Jeff Bezos has opined loftily. It’s not just emissions that are the problem; it’s the greenhouse gaslighting.

 Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

‘Record-shattering’ heat becoming much more likely, says climate study

Climate change

More heatwaves even worse than those seen recently in north-west of America forecast in research

Firefighter tackle the Bootleg fire, near Klamath Falls, Oregon on 17 July.
Firefighters tackle the Bootleg fire, near Klamath Falls, Oregon on 17 July. Scientists say the world has yet to see the worst impacts possible from global heating. Photograph: US Forest Service/AFP/Getty Images

Damian Carrington Environment editor@dpcarringtonMon 26 Jul 2021 11.00 EDT

“Record-shattering” heatwaves, even worse than the one that recently hit north-west America, are set to become much more likely in future, according to research. The study is a stark new warning on the rapidly escalating risks the climate emergency poses to lives.

The shocking temperature extremes suffered in the Pacific north-west and in Australia 2019-2020 were “exactly what we are talking about”, said the scientists. But they said the world had yet to see anything close to the worst impacts possible, even under the global heating that had already happened.

The research found that highly populated regions in North America, Europe and China were where the record-shattering extremes are most likely to occur. One illustrative heatwave produced by the computer models used in the study showed some locations in mid-northern America having temperatures 18C higher than average.

Preparing for such unprecedented extremes was vital, said the scientists, because they could cause thousands of premature deaths, and measures taken to adapt to date had often been based only on previous heat records.

Scientists already know that heatwaves of the kind mostly seen today will become more common as the climate crisis unfolds. But heatwaves are usually analysed by comparing them with the past, which means the vast majority are only marginally hotter than before. This can give a false sense of a gradual rise in record temperatures.

<img src="" alt="FILE PHOTO: U.S. Pacific Northwest faces heat wave

The new computing modelling study instead looked for the first time at the highest margins by which week-long heatwave records could be broken in future.

It found that heatwaves that smash previous records by roughly 5C would become two to seven times more likely in the next three decades and three to 21 times more likely from 2051–2080, unless carbon emissions are immediately slashed. Such extreme heatwaves are all but impossible without global heating.

The vulnerability of North America, Europe and China was striking, said Erich Fischer, at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who led the research. “Here we see the largest jumps in record-shattering events. This is really quite worrying,” he added.

“Many places have by far not seen anything close to what’s possible, even in present-day conditions, because only looking at the past record is really dangerous.”

Soldiers inspect damage after the flooding of the Ahr River, in Rech in the district of Ahrweiler, Germany, on 21 July.
Soldiers inspect damage after the flooding of the River Ahr, in Rech in the district of Ahrweiler, Germany, on 21 July. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

The study also showed that record-shattering events could come in sharp bursts, rather than gradually becoming more frequent. “That is really concerning,” Fischer said: “Planning for heatwaves that get 0.1C more intense every two or three years would still be very worrying, but it would be much easier to prepare for.”

Prof Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University in the US and not part of the new research, said: “This study underscores something that has been apparent in the record weather extremes we’ve seen this summer: dangerous climate change is here, and it’s now simply a matter of how dangerous we are willing to let it get.” Mann’s own research published in May showed a possible doubling of heat stress in the US by 2100.

But he said: “If anything, this latest study, and our own, are underestimating the potential for deadly heat extremes in the future, in the absence of significant climate action.” That is because current climate models do not capture the slow-moving and very persistent nature of the extreme weather phenomena seen in the Pacific north-west heatwave and German floods recently.

The aftermath of recent flooding in Bad Muenstereifel, Germany

The new research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, concluded: “Record-shattering extremes are [currently] very rare but their expected probability increases rapidly in the coming three decades.”

It found the rate of global heating was critical in increasing the risk, rather than simply the global temperature reached. This indicates that sharp cuts in emissions are needed as soon as possible, rather than emissions continuing and being sucked back out of the atmosphere at a later date.Advertisement

The scientists used a scenario in which carbon emissions are not reduced, which some experts have argued is unrealistic, given that some climate action is being taken. However, global emissions are not yet falling, bar the blip caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the researchers argue the scenario remains relevant until CO2 emissions are consistently falling.

The researchers said the rare record-shattering events in the past had huge impacts, such as the Russian heatwave of 2010, which killed 55,000 people and wiped out $15bn of crops, and the European heatwave of 2003, which led to 70,000 early deaths.

“With temperature records being smashed in North America and devastating floods in Europe and China just in the last month, it is clear climate change is affecting the planet,” said Vikki Thompson, at Bristol University in the UK. “The need to understand what could happen in the future is vital to allow us to adapt.”

“The good news is that we can prevent the worst case shown in this study,” she said. If emissions start falling immediately and rapidly, the study showed, the risk of record-shattering extremes is cut by about 80%. “With Cop26 looming, we must hope that policymakers use evidence like this to show the need for global emissions reductions,” Thompson said.

‘What can we do?’ Chinese discuss role of climate crisis in deadly floods

Media and citizens have begun asking if China has properly prepared for climate emergency

People ride in the front of a loader to cross a flooded street in Zhengzhou, Henan province
People ride in the front of a loader to cross a flooded street in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Vincent Ni China affairs correspondentMon 26 Jul 2021 11.19 EDT

At about 5pm last Tuesday, as heavy rainfall continued to pound her apartment building in Zhengzhou, the climate policy researcher Zhang Jin headed out to her local supermarket. But the buns and vegetables were all gone, and the queue in the supermarket was “over a hundred metres’ long”, she later recalled.

<img src="" alt="China Henan Xinxiang Rainfall Rescue – 22 Jul 2021

After learning that some of her relatives were trapped elsewhere in the city, she decided to drive out to help them. But she was surprised to discover other drivers abandoning their vehicles. Zhang realised something was very wrong, and turned back.

“Even though I have knowledge of climate change, I wasn’t fully aware that natural disasters triggered by climate change could arrive at any time,” the 32-year-old said. “Let alone non-specialists [in climate], or government officials.”

The Chinese government appears to have been caught equally by surprise. Heavy rains and floods in the past week have so far cost at least 63 lives in one of China’s most agriculture-focused and populous provinces, Henan, affecting more than 11 million people, many of them in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. The government estimated the economic cost to be at least ¥65bn (£7.3bn).

Sinkholes have opened on some road surfaces, raising concerns about the quality of their construction, while others have questioned the disaster response.

A flooded street sinks into a hole at Mihe town on July 21, 2021 in Gongyi, Henan Province of China. Mihe town in Gongyi city, which is administered by Zhengzhou, is one of the hardest-hit areas
A sinkhole in a flooded street in Gongyi, Henan province. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Local meteorological authorities claimed that they had issued the highest-level alert. However, China had yet to develop a coordinated emergency response mechanism for such situations, said Cheng Xiaotao, a member of the China national committee on disaster reduction.Advertisement

“For example, after the warnings, under what circumstance should we halt work and manufacturing? How should various [government] departments coordinate with each other?  How to despatch various disaster relief resources? And what are the actual emergency actions to take in response?” Cheng asked in Chinese media.

The media and ordinary citizens have begun to discuss the role of the climate crisis in the disaster, and asking to what extent the government is prepared for future climate emergencies.

Shortly after the heavy rainfall made national headlines, official Chinese media outlets began to publish articles asking whether the floods, and recent disasters elsewhere in the world, were related to the climate crisis.

“As extreme weather occurs in many parts of the world of late, is there anything common behind them?” asked an article published on Thursday on several official Chinese-language websites, including the official news agency Xinhua and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. “What can we do when facing such natural disasters?”

Quoting Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, the article noted: “Had it not been [for] climate change, we wouldn’t have observed such high temperatures in Canada and on the west coast of the United States. This is an obvious sign of climate change.”

The next day, Jia Xiaolong, the deputy head of the national climate centre, told China News Agency that the heavy rainfalls in Henan occurred “against the backdrop of global warming”.Advertisement

“This year, whether it’s in China or elsewhere in the world, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are all closely related to global warming,” he said.

It is not the first time Jia spoke of the danger of the climate crisis. Last summer, he told the national broadcaster CCTV that extreme weather events “will occur more frequently in China as a result of global warming – something the country is particularly vulnerable to”.

People wade across a flooded street in the city of Zhengzhou in China’s Henan province.

Awareness of the climate emergency has been growing in China over the last decade, in part due to Beijing’s involvement in high-profile international initiatives such as the Paris agreement. In a China Center for Climate Change Communication survey in 2012, 55% of the respondents said the climate crisis was mostly caused by human activities. In 2017, 75.2% believed they had already experienced impacts of the climate emergency, and nearly 80% were worried about it.

But to Zhang, last week’s massive flooding and its devastating human costs – which some Chinese media have described as “unseen in 1,000 years” – is a reminder that the impact of extreme weather events can only be minimised with a better emergency response mechanism and the public’s engagement.

“It’s absolutely necessary to strengthen the public’s knowledge [of the climate crisis],” she said. “We cannot wait until the arrival of disasters to face them.”

Okanogan County fires threaten hundreds of homes, bring smoke, poor air quality to Methow Valley

July 23, 2021 at 3:20 pm Updated July 23, 2021 at 8:01 pm  

Three large wildfires burning in Okanogan County forced the closure of a stretch of the SR 20 North Cascades Highway west of Mazama. (WSDOT)
Three large wildfires burning in Okanogan County forced the closure of a stretch of the SR 20 North Cascades Highway west of Mazama. (WSDOT)

Skip Ad;Elise Takahama and Christine ClarridgeSeattle Times staff reporters

Firefighters battled at least three wildfires Friday in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes and briefly clogged the Methow Valley with hazardous smoke. 

The Cedar Creek blaze, which is burning five miles southwest of Mazama, and the Cub Creek 2 fire, burning five miles north of Winthrop, prompted evacuations throughout the area.


Use these interactive maps to track wildfires, air quality and drought conditions in Washington state, Oregon and British Columbia

The blazes are two of at least 15 large wildfires currently burning in the Pacific Northwest — eight in Washington and seven in Oregon — across 638,000 acres. In Oregon, firefighters are dousing flames east of Roseburg, south of Detroit Lake and northeast of Sprague River, among other spots. The Bootleg fire in southern Oregon is particularly concerning to officials, who say it’s become so large and is generating so much energy and heat that it’s changing the weather.

In Washington, the Cedar Creek fire, which was ignited by lightning on July 8, had grown to 20,806 acres (32 square miles) and was 11% contained by Friday afternoon, said Pam Sichting, information officer with Northwest Incident Management Team 8. It’s threatening 1,449 structures, including homes, garages and woodsheds, and continues to burn through the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on steep and rocky terrain.

It’s unclear how many people have been evacuated, since officials have been prioritizing counting residences and structures, Sichting said.ADVERTISINGSkip Ad Ad Ad

The Cedar Creek fire “is backing down in the majority of the area into some old dozer line we opened up from previous fires,” Sichting said, referring to a cleared area bulldozed around the perimeter of the blaze.

The southeast corner of the fire became more active Friday afternoon, so crews focused their efforts there, she said.

The Cub Creek 2 fire started July 16 and has grown to about 40,000 acres (62 square miles). It is 5% contained and is threatening 271 residences, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The blaze has destroyed at least one home, the center said.

Joe Zwierzchowski, a spokesperson for the incident management team handling the Cub Creek 2 fire, said the blaze had started moving away from homes Friday afternoon.

Although thick smoke from the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek 2 fires settled into the North Central Washington valley overnight, the air has since started to clear out, Sichting said. By Friday afternoon, it was safe for crews to deploy aircraft to battle the flames from above.

“This clear air spooks people sometimes because they’ll see more smoke rising (out of the area) than they normally do, but it comes with the benefit of getting a more aggressive approach … and hitting some of the hotter spots with aircraft using water and retardant,” Zwierzchowski said.ADVERTISINGSkip Ad

He said the Cub Creek 2 fire had forced dozens of people to evacuate, but he didn’t have an exact number.


Smoke season has begun. Here’s how to prepare.

On both Thursday and Friday morning, the air quality index in Winthrop climbed over 400, according to Air Quality Index’s real-time map, meaning it was hazardous to everyone.

Meanwhile, near the Colville Indian Reservation, the Chuweah Creek fire has consumed 36,730 acres (57 square miles). The smaller Summit Trail fires, at less than 6,000 acres (9 square miles), however, were putting out most of the smoke and creating “unhealthy” air quality conditions between 150 and 200. 

Anyone in need of shelter can contact the Red Cross at 509-670-5331. The organization has opened stand-by shelter at the Methow Valley Elementary School in Winthrop.

Massive heat dome brings yet another heat wave, this time covering most of the US

By Hannah Gard and Haley Brink, CNN Meteorologists

Updated 4:58 PM ET, Fri July 23, 2021

What is a heat dome?

What is a heat dome? 01:10

(CNN)A barrage of heat waves have plagued the US this summer and more above-average temperatures are on the way next week, affecting more of the country than those before it.Although not as extreme as the past few heat spells, this one will span from coast to coast due to a strong heat dome elevating temperatures even higher during the hottest time of the year. The epicenter of the heat will build across the northern and central Plains — a region that has largely escaped the relentless, record-breaking heat the past few months.

The West's historic drought in 3 maps

The West’s historic drought in 3 mapsA broad ridge of high pressure will expand over much of the country by the beginning of next week bringing with it potentially record high temperatures to the Plains. Most states that have been sitting below average through the summer will begin to see temperatures near average or slightly above in the Southeast and Southern Plains.

According to the Climate Prediction Center, the heat isn’t going anywhere for the next two weeks as most of the country is forecast to see near to above-average temperatures, apart from the northeastern parts of New England.

Above-average temperatures range from the Pacific Northwest east to the Tennessee River Valley as the heat dome dominates the weather pattern.

Heat warnings and advisories are already in effect for some areas of the Midwest, where heat index values on Saturday will begin to climb into the triple digits. More advisories are likely to be issued for the week ahead as the heat builds.Enter your email to sign up for the Wonder Theory newsletter.close dialog

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Want to stay updated on the latest space and science news?We’ve got you.Sign Me UpBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.New Orleans, Kansas City and St. Louis are included in heat advisories affecting more than 13 million people at the start of the weekend. Above-average temperatures will begin to spread across the nation on Friday, but will become widespread by next week.

The Climate Prediction Center outlook shows an above-average temperature trend for most of the US.The Climate Prediction Center outlook shows an above-average temperature trend for most of the US.

Heat expands this weekend

Daily high temperature records could fall in areas across Montana that have already seen records crushed earlier in the season.”It may come as a surprise but this Sunday (7/25) is the only day in July where the record high in Billings is less than 100°. The current forecast is 99° with a 50% chance of temperatures reaching 100°,” according to the National Weather Service office in Billings, Montana.

Extreme weather events put spotlight on climate change's toll on US infrastructure

Extreme weather events put spotlight on climate change’s toll on US infrastructureFriday and Saturday will be a slight lull in the state’s most recent heat wave before temperatures soar once again into the triple digits by the end of the weekend. Highs will near records once again and low temperatures will provide little reprieve.”Overnight lows are also expected to be quite warm (around 70 degrees in many locations) so additional heat warnings may be needed if current forecast trends continue (possibly from Sunday through Tuesday or Wednesday),” the Billings weather service office said.By end of this weekend, the ridge will expand into the northern Plains after a brief lull in the already torrid temperatures some areas have felt all summer.Widespread triple digits will hit the western and central US on Monday, with highs in the 100s spanning the Great Basin, northern Plains and southern Plains.The heat dome could bring an excessive heat event to Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming at the beginning of next week with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above average.”The potential does exist for a prolonged heat event for our area,” said the National Weather Service office in North Platte, Nebraska. “If this does come to fruition, widespread highs over 100 degrees could be realized.”

It’s not a dry heat

High humidity values will amp up the heat even more, leading to “feels like temperatures” of more than 100 degrees across the central US throughout the week. Moisture surging north from the Gulf of Mexico will allow for these heat indices to climb into the triple digits in places like Dallas and Oklahoma City.Southeastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota will see the hottest day on Monday when temperatures reach the century mark in most places. Parts of northern Nevada and southern Idaho also see high temperatures peak Monday.

A flash flood watch and exceptional drought: Arizona's in both at the same time

A flash flood watch and exceptional drought: Arizona’s in both at the same timeOn Tuesday the highest temperatures begin to shift southeastward as a front approaches from the northeast moving south toward the Dakotas.Monsoon moisture could move into the north central Plains by the middle of the week, bringing brief relief to Wyoming and parts of Montana as it interacts with the approaching front and springs up some scattered showers.By midweek temperatures in the triple digits will span from South Dakota to southern Kansas, pressed southward by the frontal boundary to the North. Texas and Oklahoma will see temperatures nearing triple digits throughout the week due to the ridge of high pressure as well.

Summer heat arrives across the Southeast

The area expected to experience the most extreme temperatures is located in the north-central Plains, but across the southern US high temperatures will be widely above 90 degrees for the first time this month.”After only having seven days of 90 degree or higher temperatures all year so far, we are looking at eight in a row … at least,” said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller about the heat coming to Atlanta, Georgia.From the southern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic, seasonal or above-average temperatures are forecast for the coming week. Highs in the 90s spanning from Amarillo to Philadelphia will give the region its first widespread taste of hot summer temperatures this year.High temperatures are forecast to exceed 90 degrees across the country on Monday.High temperatures are forecast to exceed 90 degrees across the country on Monday.The southeastern US has experienced a very mild summer so far. While the majority of the country saw an above-average June, the warmest on average for the US, the Southeast saw mainly average to below-average temperatures according to the June climate report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Along with the cooler conditions, rain persisted throughout June, bringing much of the Gulf Coast region above-average precipitation totals.Extensive rain events and the heat waves centered over the Pacific Northwest allowed the region to remain cooler and wetter than the rest of the country, a pattern that is coming to an end with the arriving heat.

Crews make progress on huge Oregon wildfire, homes threatened in California

The blaze is among a number burning across the U.S. west, where recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.

Image: Bootleg Fire Continues To Burn Across Southern Oregon

Fire Information Officer Jacob Welsh observes smoldering trees on the northern front of the Bootleg Fire Silver Creek, Oregon on Friday.Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / Getty ImagesJuly 24, 2021, 5:37 AM PDTBy The Associated Press

The nation’s largest wildfire raged through southern Oregon on Friday, but crews were scaling back some night operations as hard work and weaker winds helped reduce the spread of flames even as wildfires continued to threaten homes in neighboring California.

In Montana, five firefighters remained hospitalized a day after a thunderstorm and swirling winds blew a lightning-caused wildfire back on them, federal officials said.

The five had joined other crews working on the 1,300-acre Devil’s Creek fire burning in rough, steep terrain near the rural town of Jordan. The firefighters were building a defensive line Thursday when the weather shifted, Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen said.

Large wildfire scorches Oregon

JULY 16, 202101:20

Jacobsen declined to release the extent of the firefighters’ injuries but said they were still being evaluated and treated Friday. The firefighters included three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota and two USDA Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico.

The blaze is among a number burning across the U.S. West, where extremely dry conditions and recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.

In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire has destroyed an area half the size of Rhode Island. It was 40% surrounded after burning some 70 homes, mainly cabins, fire officials said. At least 2,000 homes were ordered evacuated at some point during the fire, and an additional 5,000 were threatened.

The upper eastern edge of the fire continued to move toward Summer Lake, jumping fire lines Thursday and prompting an evacuation order for some portions of Lake County to be raised to “Go now!” fire officials said.

Winds up to 10 mph (16 kph) could drive the flames through timber but not at the pace seen last week, when the wind-driven blaze grew exponentially, fire information officer Angela Goldman said.

The fire, which was ignited by lightning, had been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by strong winds and critically dry weather.

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There was good news on the lower portion of the 625-square-mile (1,619-square-kilometer) blaze. Crews had locked in containment lines and on the lower southeastern side, they were able to gain a substantial foothold, allowing them to cut back to nighttime patrols from what had been a “24-7 run-and-gun” fight, fire information officer Sarah Gracey said.

“For us, that’s a pretty big step,” she said. “It’s not that easy to work in a pitch-black forest in the middle of the night.”

On Friday, authorities said they would be keeping an eye on changing wind conditions.


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“The fire continues to throw challenges at us, and we are going to continue to stay vigilant, work hard and adapt,” Joe Hessel, incident commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team, said in a statement.

That side of the blaze also had burned into an area blackened by a previous fire, creating gaps in the fuel and reducing the spread of flames through grass, shrub and timber, Gracey said.

Image: Bootleg Fire Continues To Burn Across Southern Oregon
Downed trees smolder on the north front of the Bootleg Fire on Friday near Silver Creek, Oregon.Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / Getty Images

In California, the Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe has now burned more than 91 square miles of timber and head-high chaparral of mostly national forest land, fire officials said Friday.

The fire, sparked by lightning July 4 in Alpine County, has destroyed at least 10 buildings and forced the evacuation of more than 2,400 homes. That includes about 1,300 that were ordered evacuated for the first time Thursday when blowing embers ignited a new spot fire that jumped U.S. Highway 395 north of Topaz Lake on the California-Nevada line.

Pat Seekins, operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team that was called in to manage the fire, said Friday they were shifting significant resources to its eastern flank along the state line. More than 1,300 firefighters were battling the overall fire, and more resources were on their way.

Seekins said the spot fire “grew very large” very quickly. It already has burned an estimated 10 square miles.

“We had a really active day yesterday. It was pretty severe,” he said. “It’s a very significant spot fire, and it’s going to take a lot of work. That will be a very high priority for us today.”

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners in Nevada declared a state of emergency and set up evacuation sites at a senior center and the Topaz Estates community center. Neighboring Lyon County opened one at Smith Valley High School.

Crews also continue to provide structure protection farther west in California near Markleeville, Woodfords and Crystal Springs south of California Highway 88, but the worst danger has passed there, Seekins said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Friday in Butte County, California, as the Dixie Fire continued to grow explosively eastward, becoming the state’s largest wildfire so far this year. On Thursday, officials in Plumas County in the Sierra Nevada west of the Nevada line also ordered evacuations.

The fire had burned more than 223 square miles as of Friday morning, fire officials said. It destroyed at least eight buildings and threatened at least 1,500 more.

How severe is the megadrought in the West?


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How severe is the megadrought in the West?

© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Summer for many Americans is the time to enjoy being outside. But for much of the United States, this year’s extreme drought, wildfires, smoke and heat waves have made enjoying outdoor activities nearly impossible and continue to threaten the livelihoods and health of people and ecosystems across the country. With summer 2021 barely half over, and conditions likely to worsen in coming months, these extreme conditions provide a stark reminder that the chronic impacts of climate change will be one of our greatest 21st-century challenges.

As bad as 2021 has been, the story of drought in the West doesn’t begin this year. Since 2000, severe drought has drained western reservoirs, increased ground-water extraction, promoted giant wildfires and forest die-off, and coincided with ever-intensifying heat waves. We’ve had a bit of a bad run.

But how bad has that run really been? Pretty bad, actually. In 2020, our research team published a study demonstrating that 2000 to 2018 was among the worst 19-year drought periods in at least 1200 years, second only to a so-called “megadrought” in the late 1500s.

Now, 2021 is shaping up to be the region’s most severe drought year in modern history, pushing the 2000s drought into its 22nd year, an over two-decade-long event that will likely be the West’s driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years. In other words, 2021 will probably be remembered as a fork in the road for western drought, when an already long and severe drought had a big growth spurt and entered legitimate megadrought territory.

The term megadrought arose in the 1990s through the study of tree-ring records. Measurements from many thousands of trees across the West give us an exceptionally accurate record of annual soil-moisture conditions that stretches back more than 1,200 years. It is in this record that the story of megadroughts — severe droughts that stretched on for multiple decades or even a century — has been revealed.

From 800 AD to 1600 AD, the West suffered four megadroughts, each pummeling the region with intense and prolonged dry conditions. A megadrought in the 1200s is especially infamous because it lasted the better part of a century and coincided with the depopulation of indigenous cliff-dwelling settlements in the Southwest. The last of the megadroughts left its mark in the late 1500s, lasting approximately 30 years and including the year 1580 CE, the worst single drought year in at least 1,200 years.

As of July, our projected estimates indicate that 2021 will very likely finish among the worst three to five drought years in the past 1,200 years. These exceptionally dry conditions will push the 2000s drought to the top, overtaking the 1500s megadrought as the event with the driest 22-year period in more than a millennium. Will the current drought soon end — or will it survive to 30 years, the age of the 1500s megadrought, or persist even longer? We don’t know, but it will take more than just one or two lucky wet years to make up for the dryness accumulated since 2000.

A difference between the current megadrought and those of the past is that it has not exclusively been a matter of chance — this drought has been strengthened by human-caused climate change. Warming from greenhouse-gas emissions enhances the atmosphere’s thirst for moisture from soils, plants and lakes. Warming also reduces mountain snowpack and may even push storm tracks north — away from the dry southwestern United States. Based on climate model simulations, our best estimate is that human-caused warming trends account for 30 to 45 percent of the severity of the 2000s drought so far. In other words, if the last two decades of fickle storms in the West had occurred without human-caused warming, the resulting drought would have been serious, but not in the same ballpark as the megadroughts of the past.

This assessment that warming worsens droughts in the West is not based solely on climate modeling. The Earth has been faithfully storing clues about its environmental history in more than just tree rings. Shorelines and mud sediments from ancient lakes, vegetation preserved in pack-rat nests, and other natural archives point to profound drying across the West as the globe warmed coming out of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, and again roughly 6,000 years ago when the Northern Hemisphere received its most sunlight in 100,000 years. The message from these past periods is clear: when the globe warms, the West dries.

 Multiple lines of evidence indicate that human-caused warming will continue to load the dice toward increasingly severe and longer-lasting droughts in the western US. A western water crisis may very well be underway and the ever-increasing risks require that drought resilience locally must be immediately pursued, while greenhouse-gas reductions must be an urgent priority globally.

Yes, there’s been a lot of bad news lately, but the good news is that our science has given us the ability to anticipate the future. That power has alerted us to the seriousness of the risks we may face, but it has also given us the power to influence how the future will unfold.

The choice is ours, but as we ponder our decision it may be wise to reflect on the words of the late Nobel laureate, Sherwood Roland: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

Next heat dome to build across Lower 48, aggravating drought, fires

Andrew Freedman

Map showing red hues covering the U.S. and parts of Canada as another heat wave hits the region.

Computer model projection for temperature departures from average on July 28, 2021. (

A significant and far-reaching heat wave is poised to build across much of the continental U.S. during the next few weeks, and it could be the most expansive in the country so far during this unusually hot summer, aggravating drought and wildfires.

The big picture: Forests across the West are already burning at a scope and intensity that’s unusual for this time of year. Drought data released Thursday showed that what is already the worst Western drought so far this century is only intensifying. Any additional heat will aggravate an already dire situation.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 65.4% of the Western U.S. is in “extreme” to “exceptional” drought conditions, the two worst categories on the scale, up from 52.8% on June 1.
  • The only modest relief in sight is for parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada, where monsoonal moisture will bring rounds of thunderstorms. These storms could also ignite new fires, though, by delivering lightning but little rain in some areas.

Driving the news: A “heat dome,” which is an area of high pressure aloft that helps to lock in place hot, dry weather, will form this weekend over the West and eventually migrate to a position across the Central Plains.

  • Computer models show temperatures climbing to 10°F to 15°F or higher above average for this time of year across the affected areas.
  • That may not sound like a major event, but late July is just past what is typically the hottest time of the year, which means temperatures will easily reach the triple digits from portions of the Pacific Northwest to the Plains, parts of the Midwest and Eastern U.S. (with the exception of the Northeast).

What’s next: The heat will first build in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West on Monday and expand east into Tuesday and Wednesday, when the heat dome will be be broadly centered over Colorado and the adjacent Plains states.

  • Above average temperatures are likely by Thursday from coast-to-coast, with the hottest conditions compared to average occurring in the Plains and Midwest, where some areas could see anomalies of 20°F above average.
  • Cities such as Des Moines, Minneapolis and Chicago will be in the path of the heat wave by the middle of next week.
Map with red and blue colors showing temperature outlook across the U.S. in the next week to two weeks.
Temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center for July 28 to August 1. (NOAA)

How it works: While heat waves are a normal feature in the summertime, climate change from human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases is increasing their intensity, duration and frequency.

  • For example, scientists concluded that the Pacific Northwest heat wave, which broke all-time heat records in dozens of locations — including Seattle and Portland at 108°F and 115°F, respectively — was so severe it was “virtually impossible” in the absence of global warming.
  • This event will be the fifth distinct heat wave the U.S. will have seen so far this summer.

Context: Model projections are showing the heat won’t fade quickly, but could stick around for much of August as weather patterns pile up like cars on the Washington Beltway, going nowhere fast.

  • Stuck weather patterns featuring strong areas of high pressure aloft have been to blame for several deadly extreme weather events this summer, including the Pacific Northwest heat wave that is thought to have killed hundreds in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the Central Europe floods that have killed at least 200.
  • In much of the West, heat and drought will continue to feed off each other in a vicious cycle, with the hot temperatures drying soils further — allowing more incoming solar radiation to go directly into heating the air.

The intrigue: Environmental groups are hoping the extreme weather events this summer will move the needle on legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bolstering the resilience of American infrastructure.

  • An event held Thursday by the environmental groups Climate Power and the League of Conservation Voters brought a diverse group of people to Capitol Hill to convey that sense of urgency.
  • Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), who chose WGN-TV chief meteorologist Tom Skilling to speak at the event, told Axios on Thursday that the stories he’s hearing from this summer are sobering, and that they underscore the need for the Senate to “do their job.”
  • “People are now getting it because it’s tangible and they can’t say, ‘well this is just a crazy scientific theory and prediction but I don’t think it’s going to happen,'” Casten told Axios.

Heat Dome

 the American west

People sleep at a cooling shelter set up during an unprecedented heat wave in Portland on 27 June.
People sleep at a cooling shelter set up during an unprecedented heat wave in Portland on 27 June. Photograph: Maranie Staab/Reuters

Residents of the region, known for its mild weather, are facing a shifting reality

Oliver Milman@olliemilmanThu 22 Jul 2021 02.00 EDT

The recent heatwave that broiled the US Pacific north-west not only obliterated temperature records in cities such as Seattle and Portland – it also put a torch to a comforting bromide that the region would be a mild, safe haven from the ravages of the climate crisis.

Unprecedented temperatures baked the region three weeks ago, part of a procession of heatwaves that have hit the parched US west, from Montana to southern California, over the past month. A “heat dome” that settled over the area saw Seattle reach 108F (42.2C), smashing the previous record by 3F (1.7C), while Portland, Oregon, soared to its own record of 116F (46.7C). Some inland areas managed to get up to 118F (47.8C).Advertisement

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The conditions in a corner of the US known for its moderate, often lukewarm, summers bewildered residents.

Roads cracked and buckled in the heat, power cables melted, restaurants shut down. Hospitals suddenly found themselves overwhelmed, with several hundred people believed to have died in the heat. Slightly north, off the coast of Vancouver, an estimated 1 billion marine creatures perished, as helpless mussels and clams cooked in their own shells.

“We saw the forecasts and it was hard to believe as we don’t really have heatwaves like that. In Seattle it’s usually so overcast during June we call it Juneuary,” said Kristie Ebi, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who knew the heatwave was serious when she woke up at 6am with the temperature already at 80F. “You see the heatwaves hit other places and you know it’s bad but there’s not the sense of urgency until it hits you.”

The Bootleg fire burns in Southern Oregon on 17 July.

An old joke in Seattle is that you will know more people with a boat than people with air conditioning and the latest figures show just 44% of households in the city are fitted with air con. The Pacific north-west’s image as a place of rugged natural beauty, comfortable climes and forward-thinking politics has helped draw plenty of newcomers – Seattle was the fastest-growing major US city last year – but the freakish heatwave has provided a sobering reality check to its blossoming status as a refuge.

A Salvation Army member gives out bottled water in Seattle on 27 June.
A Salvation Army member gives out bottled water in Seattle on 27 June. Photograph: Karen Ducey/Reuters


“There are a lot of people moving up from California with the idea there’s a lot of natural amenities and a lot of cheap space but all of these factors are changing,” said Jesse Keenan, an expert in climate adaptation at Tulane University. “It’s becoming less affordable and is increasingly burdened by forest fires, terrible smoke, flash floods and these heatwaves that suddenly make things a matter of life or death.”

The Pacific north-west has heated up by an average of 2F (1.1C) over the past century, with growing wildfires, failing coastal fisheries, receding snowpack and increasing heat taking its toll upon a region historically unprepared for such extremes. The recent heatwave would have been “virtually impossible” without human-induced climate breakdown, scientists have said.about:blankImageUpload an image file, pick one from your media library, or add one with a URL.UploadSelect ImageInsert from URL

Communities in the north-west face a “monumental task” to adapt to this shifting reality, Keenan said, requiring the upgrading of homes, businesses and public buildings with proper cooling, increasing shade with more tree cover, making urban surfaces more reflective to the heat and retooling an electricity grid ill-equipped for huge power surges in summertime.

“There is a very rapid change in the climate under way and at the moment they are not well prepared for extreme heat,” Keenan said. “People are finally feeling the pain of that.”

Oregon was supposed to be a tranquil haven for Steven Mana’oakamai Johnson, who moved to the state in 2017 after witnessing his home in Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, menaced by typhoons made increasingly powerful by the warming ocean and atmosphere.Advertisement

But when the heatwave struck, Johnson, his partner and their dog had to flee their Corvallis apartment, which does not have air conditioning, to stay on the Oregon coast in an attempt to cool down. The surging heat, which followed wildfires that raged nearby last year, has forced Johnson to revise his previous assumptions.

“I always thought this was a comfortable place, that it could even be a host state for climate migrants,” said Johnson, a biologist. “But there has been this big wake-up that things are moving faster than anticipated. It was shocking how hot it got, and how long it took to cool down.”

Sign says restaurant is closing early due to extreme heat
A sign in the window of the Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on 28 June. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

Several of Johnson’s friends are among the many people now inundating local contractors with requests to install air conditioning.

<img src="; alt="Lake Mead Falls To Lowest Level Since Hoover Dam’s Construction

“In just a few days you’ve seen this big change in how people are thinking about adapting,” he said. “It has changed my view of Oregon. It’s hammered home to me that climate change is inescapable – no matter where you are or when you go there, you have to think about it. Nowhere is safe, nowhere is truly a refuge.”

The calculus for some people is even more existential. A few hundred miles north of Seattle, the small Canadian town of Lytton was almost completely consumed by a fast-moving wildfire on 30 June, the day after it set a stunning new national record temperature of 121F (49.6C), a huge leap on the previous record and higher than any temperature ever gauged in Europe or South America.Advertisement

Lytton is located in a more arid inland area than the breezier British Columbia coast and so often gets scorching heat in summer, although nothing approaching the incredible extremes endured this year. It is forcing some to think about their presence in what is supposed to be a safe corner of the world.

“I firmly believe there will be more and more fires until there are no trees here,” said Jim Ryan, a computer programmer who has lived in Spence’s Bridge, a small town near Lytton, for the past 30 years. “Even if I don’t get burned out, do I want to spend every summer living in smoke, in a place more polluted than in the big cities?”

Ash is still falling down around Ryan’s house and in most recent summers a nearby wildfire has choked his town, leaving his clothes smelling of smoke. “There were always fires before, but never this big, they never took off as fast,” he said.