Media reaction: Pacific north-west ‘heat dome’ and the role of climate change

The heat has driven numerous cities to a standstill, forcing schools, Covid-19 vaccination centres and dining establishments to close, along with triggering governments to relax social-distancing rules to allow individuals without a/c to shelter in emergency situation cooling centres. Hospitals are filling up with patients with “heat-related diseases” and the death toll has actually started to rise.

In Lytton, a small town in Canada, record-breaking temperature levels of 46.1 C (115F), 47.9 C (118F) and 49.6 C (121.3 F) were taped on three consecutive days. Prior to this heatwave, the greatest tape-recorded temperature level in the region was 45C. Seattle and Portland in the United States have seen 3 successive days of record-breaking temperatures.

In this article, Carbon Brief sums up how the severe heat and the function of climate modification has actually been covered by the media.

Less than 2 weeks after record-breaking temperature levels required California into a state of emergency situation, an extreme heatwave has swept over northwestern United States and Canada, shattering records across the area.

The heatwave is driven by an area of high climatic pressure sitting over the North American continent, which numerous media outlets are calling a “heat dome”. US president Joe Biden has signed up with many climate researchers and media reports in connecting the extreme temperatures to climate change.

How has the heatwave established?

On Wednesday 23 June, US weather forecasters cautioned that a “harmful and historical heatwave” would strike over the weekend, cautioning that cities in the northwest United States, such as Seattle, Portland and Spokane, could see temperatures near and above 38C (100F).

And, as the weekend began, media outlets were reporting that temperature level records were falling in earnest. Portland, in Oregon, broke its all-time highest temperature level record on Saturday, the Guardian reported, with temperature levels reaching 42.2 C (108F). Temperatures climbed further to 44.4 C (112F) on Sunday, according to CBS News. And BBC News reported that temperatures reached 46.1 C (115F) on Monday– marking the 3rd day in a row the city set a brand-new all-time high.

Dangerous and ⚠ record-breaking Heatwave concerning the West. Over 80 sites are forecast to break everyday heat records starting this weekend. All-time June monthly records might likewise be broken in some locations in the Pacific Northwest. https://t.co/L4FyvSS6lj pic.twitter.com/ouyIvWG3Fd— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) June 23, 2021

As a location of high pressure started to surround Friday 25 June, the first temperature level record– a record-high minimum everyday temperature level in Seattle– was broken. “If youre keeping a written list of the records that will fall, you might need a couple of pages by early next week,” NWS Seattle tweeted.

116 ° F (46.7 ° C)! Portland International Airport has actually reported a new all-time record high temperature for the 3rd day in a row. pic.twitter.com/8eVIcSpDQ6— Dr. Robert Rohde (@RARohde) June 29, 2021

According to BBC News, Seattle taped temperature levels of 38.3 C (101F) on Saturday afternoon– the citys record-high temperature for June. The Seattle Times reported that temperature levels reached 40C (104F) on Sunday prior to increasing once again to 42.2 C (108F) on Monday night. This goes beyond the citys previous record of 39.4 C (103F) from 2009, the Washington Post kept in mind.

As the week progressed, other cities began reporting consecutive damaged records, too. “To put it in point of view, today will likely go down in history as the hottest day ever tape-recorded for places such as Seattle, WA and Portland, OR,” the National Weather service stated on Tuesday.

Lytton– a small village in British Columbia, Canada– reported record-breaking temperatures on 3 consecutive days, according to CBC. The outlet reported that highs of 49.6 C were reached on Tuesday in the town of Lytton, adding:

While Reuters reported that temperature levels “fell dramatically” in some parts of the United States on Tuesday, a Met Office projection reveals that temperature levels are still considerably higher than the climatological average.

I didnt think it was possible, not in my lifetime anyway. +49.6 ° C in Canada That is 121 ° F!This is the story of the Canadian heat record that was squashed on 3 successive days by an unfathomable margin of +4.6 ° C( +8 ° F). This minute will be talked about for centuries. pic.twitter.com/Ogkn5KQKBM— Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) June 30, 2021

” Lytton, a village in the Fraser Canyon located about 260 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, also saw record-breaking highs of 47.9 C on Monday and 46.6 C on Sunday. Prior to this week, the greatest temperature level ever tape-recorded in Canada was 45C in Saskatchewan in 1937.”

What are the impacts of the extreme heat?

The magnitude of the heatwave is much more evident by the image below which highlights the increased coverage and period of temperature levels above 100F throughout the Pacific Northwest from Saturday through Monday. pic.twitter.com/3TNpRbjF6Q— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) June 29, 2021

Extreme temperature levels can be lethal– especially to children, senior individuals and individuals with underlying health conditions. The US National Weather Service issued excessive-heat cautions on Monday 28 June for much of Washington and Oregon, along with for sections of California, Idaho and Nevada.

As temperatures increased, Reuters reported that provinces in western Canada “closed schools and universities”, so that people could stay within. AP news included that in Seattle, the severe heat forced a vast array of organizations to shut down:

Lots of outlets reported on the interruption to peoples daily lives, as safeguarding from the heat became the primary priority. “Pacific north-west cities shatter heat records once again, life grinds to a halt,” read one Reuters heading.

Perishable products are covered with a layer of plastic to keep in the cool air at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Portland. Credit: Sipa US/ Alamy Stock Photo.

” The heat forced schools and organizations to near to protect employees and visitors, including some places like outdoor pools and ice cream stores where people look for remedy for the heat. Covid-19 screening websites and mobile vaccination systems ran out service also.”

Meanwhile, CBC reported that air-conditioning systems were offering out. BBC News kept in mind that lots of people British Columbia do not have a/c, as temperature levels are typically far milder, including:

THREAD: An extremely likely record-breaking heat wave is headed for Western Washington this weekend. This will act as a running thread of cooling centers and public places to stay safe throughout peak temperatures in the coming days.– Joe Veyera (@JoeVeyera) June 24, 2021.

The Portland Streetcar tweeted that it was cancelling service for the day after power cable televisions melted in the heat. The Portland train service minimized the maximum speed of its services, running the statement: “Once we struck 90F Saturday through Monday, all MAX [ Metropolitan Area Express] lines will decrease speed to no more than 35mph for the remainder of the day. Anticipate hold-ups on all MAX lines.”.

The Guardian reported on the disruption in Portland over the weekend:.

The extreme temperatures have actually also been penalizing for local infrastructure. An Independent piece entitled, “Train cables melt and roads buckle in Northwests 46C heatwave,” kept in mind that asphalt on the highway had actually “expanded and ruptured due to the hot weather condition”, rendering lots of roadways hazardous for travel.

ABC News included that fewer than half of the locals in Seattle have air-conditioning in their houses, as average temperature levels in June are normally around 21C.

” One Vancouver resident informed AFP news firm that hotels seemed to be sold out, as people gathered there for air-conditioning, including: Ive never ever seen anything like this. I hope it never ever ends up being like this ever once again.”.

To fight the heat, many counties opened up structures with air-conditioning– such as cinemas and shopping center– to the general public as emergency situation “cooling shelters”, reported Oregon Live. According to CNBC, Amazon turned part of its downtown Seattle headquarters into an emergency situation public cooling centre, while Reuters kept in mind that Multnomah County, that includes Portland, opened 11 such centres– primarily in town libraries.

And BBC News reported on Tuesday that in Vancouver alone, cops had actually reacted to more than 130 unexpected deaths, in which heat was frequently a “contributing aspect”. The outlet added:.

Reuters reported that the energy firm Pacific Power, which serves 10 states, asked consumers to use less energy during the heatwave..

” A medical professional in a Seattle health center informed the Seattle Times the variety of patients streaming in with heat stroke was equivalent to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”.

” The hot weather had berry farmers rushing to pick crops before they rot on the vine and fisheries managers working to keep threatened sockeye salmon safe from too-warm river water. Shops offered out of portable air conditioning system and fans, some hospitals cancelled outdoor vaccination centers, cities opened cooling centres, baseball groups cancelled or gone up weekend games, and utilities braced for possible power interruptions.”.

Even as temperatures begin to diminish, Karin Bumbaco, the assistant climatologist for the state of Washington, told the New York Times that the extended heat “might actually have more implications for our agriculture and possible wildfires” than the record highs.

In case youre questioning why were canceling service for the day, heres what the heat is doing to our power cable televisions. pic.twitter.com/EqbKUgCJ3K— Portland Streetcar (@PDXStreetcar) June 27, 2021.

” With temperature levels reaching 46C, we noted the licence plate on our automobile surface had bubbled,” Bob Chamberlin, 56, who lives in North Vancouver, informed the Times.

Regardless of these precautions, though, Buzzfeed News reported that, across Washington and Oregon, more than 1,100 individuals have actually been sent out to medical facility for “possible heat-related disease” in recent days.

What is a heat dome?

In the coming week, the western part of the heat dome will start “gradually deteriorating”, according to the threats outlook published on 28 June by the National Weather Services Weather Prediction. As the pressure system wears down, cloud cover and wet air will begin to provide relief from the heat.

Composing in a “guest essay” for the New York Times, environment scientist Prof Michael Mann and environment modification communicator Susan Joy Hassol indicated the role of the jet stream in permitting the high-pressure “blocking” weather pattern to form (see Carbon Briefs explainer on obstructing for more details). They wrote:.

The Washington Post explained the heat dome as a “sprawling zone of high pressure centered near the US-Canada border”, adding that its strength is “so statistically rare that it may be anticipated just once every several thousand years usually”..

Vox reported that a heat dome also “squeezes clouds away, which gives the sun an unblocked line of sight to the ground” and enables it to warm the surface better. The timing of this particular heat dome– coming simply after the northern hemispheres summertime solstice– also heightens the suns heating ability, the Washington Post reported:.

A separate piece in the Washington Post likewise noted that the longest days of the year are “offering the heat dome additional time to increase temperature levels”.

The Washington Post reported that, while heat domes are a common summertime event in parts of the US south-west, the present pressure system is “striking for its incredible strength, geographical scope and persistence”.

Yes, you read this correctly. Glowing white hot over +40 ° C( 104 ° F) widely all along the western side of North America.This is the animation in per hour detail. Lets not forget about how hot the nights will be. pic.twitter.com/N2Z4Z5O1Fd— Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) June 25, 2021.

” The high summertime sun angle integrated with those cloudless skies then in turn further warms the surface.”.

This high-pressure zone “imitates a lid on a pot, trapping heat so that it builds up”, composed the New York Times. A piece in the Atlantic called it “a hot-air balloon, prevented”. The Atlantic went on:.

” The dry spell is leading to exceptionally low soil wetness, which is making it easier for these high-pressure systems to create severe heat waves because more of the suns energy is entering into heating up the atmosphere instead of vaporizing nonexistent water in the soil.”.

According to Mann and Hassol, such jet stream patterns are “an example of a phenomenon referred to as wave resonance, which scientists (consisting of among us) have actually revealed is increasingly favoured by the substantial warming of the Arctic”. (Links in between quick Arctic warming and extreme weather condition in the mid-latitudes are the topic of continuous clinical dispute– see Carbon Briefs explainer for more.).

The continuous dry spell in the western US may be making the heatwave hotter also. Dr Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, informed NPR that dry spell and heatwaves are a “vicious cycle”. He said:.

” The heatwave affecting the Pacific north-west is characterised by what is referred to as an omega block pattern, because of the shape the sharply curving jet stream makes, like the Greek letter omega (Ω). This omega curve is part of a pattern of noticable north-south wiggles made by the jet stream as it passes through the northern hemisphere.”.

The severe temperatures in western parts of the United States and Canada over the past week have been driven by a phenomenon known as a “heat dome”– a lasting and big region of high pressure being in the upper environment.

A historic heat wave is now underway in the Northwest as a heat dome intensifies. Some will see temperature levels unlike anything they have actually seen in years of history– including Seattle and Portland. How hot it will get and a couple of ways to remain safe: https://t.co/0Z8yfSppXm pic.twitter.com/wlxOJ3zBKa— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) June 26, 2021.

” In a heat dome, the [hot] airs increase is impeded by a high-pressure system sitting on the atmosphere. When the air attempts to rise, the system above pushes it back down to the surface. As the air descends, and increasingly more of the environments weight picks top of it, it becomes denser and hotter … The air cant escape this cycle, so it just flows up and down, getting hotter and hotter.”.

What role has climate modification played?

Prof Friederike Otto, associate director of Oxford Universitys Environmental Change Institute, was among many scientists who tweeted about the links in between the extreme heat and human-driven climate modification. She wrote that the team at World Weather Attribution is “striving” on comprehending how much regional factors weakened the heatwave or intensified. (For more on fast attribution research studies, see Carbon Briefs current guest post by Otto and others.).

Dessler told Axios:.

Quick on how to believe about the impact of environment change on the present PNW heatwave (and all other heatwaves). Theres no concern that environment modification is making this heat wave even worse.

Met Office environment researcher Dr Nikos Christidis was quoted in a blog post as saying that a heatwave of this magnitude “would have been almost impossible” without human contributions to climate modification. He included:.

The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2013, specified that it is “likely” that human beings were adding to the observed modifications in heatwaves since 1950, and “practically certain” that warm temperature extremes will take place more regularly as global temperatures continue to increase..

Every heatwave taking place today is made more most likely and more intense by human-induced climate modification. In some cases local elements boost or counteract this effect.– For the numbers on the PNW wait for our group @wxrisk @gjvoldenborgh were striving on them! pic.twitter.com/0sP2UY5Zkj— Dr Friederike Otto (@FrediOtto) June 28, 2021.

Whether a heatwave can be connected to climate modification is “not even a fascinating clinical concern anymore”, composed Prof Andrew Dessler, an environment researcher at Texas A&M University.

In spite of the clear connection to climate modification, lots of local media outlets have actually shied away from discussing it in their reporting. Chase Woodruff, a Colorado-based ecological policy press reporter, evaluated almost 150 short articles in the local news and found that simply 6 of them had actually referred to climate change in any capability.

Amongst environment scientists, the consensus is clear– more than it is for perhaps any other type of severe weather condition event– that heatwaves are being worsened by climate change. In fact, a 2016 report published by the US National Academy of Sciences on extreme weather condition attribution concluded:.

” The inequality between what [weather condition events] we are adapted for and what we really experience can create big negative effects that appear to suddenly appear out of nowhere– despite the fact that weve been forecasting them for literally years.”.

” [Analysis] suggests that by the end of the century these extreme temperature levels are most likely than not. Human impact is approximated to have increased the possibility of a brand-new record a number of thousand times.”.

Im honestly shocked. Thats so abysmal. Just an overall failure to perform our fundamental function to tell people whats taking place, whats crucial and why. And this is print protection; on TELEVISION, where many people get the majority of their news, Im sure its even worse.– Chase Woodruff (@dcwoodruff) June 18, 2021.

Ive dealt with environment projections for 25 years so we understood this was coming: yet its still a surprise when you see these records falling in genuine life in a location youre from. https://t.co/pdPpVYhiuv— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) June 29, 2021.

Echoing the article by Mann and Hassol in the New York Times, CNN reported that climate change may be increasing the jet streams tendency to get “stuck”, which can trigger “serious heat, dry spell or wildfires”. Bloomberg reported that other record-breaking heatwaves this summer– such as those in eastern Europe and Siberia– have actually likewise been linked to the same jet stream patterns.

Prof Erica Fleishman told the New York Times that “we can say extreme weather is happening more as climate modifications and will continue to happen more”. Fleishman, who is the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, included that the occasion is “remarkable”, however cautioned that it “is not likely to be the last”.

” Heat occasions are probably the severe weather condition events for which attribution studies are most simple and have the longest history.”.

What has the media response been?

Meanwhile, a Washington Post comment piece by journalist Charlie Warzel highlighted the severe heatwave of 52C that has actually struck Pakistan and discussed the “existential fear” of environment modification. And CBS News likewise called the heatwave a “once-in-a-millennium heat” occasion”, mentioning:.

” Anybody ever believe you d turn on the news and see its 116 degrees in Portland, Oregon? 116 degrees, Biden said in a barbed criticism of climate deniers. But do not stress– there is no international warming since its just a figment of our creativities.”.

And the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial on Monday entitled, “Record-setting heatwave reveals that climate modification is creating hell on Earth”, which called the heatwave a “visceral pointer that the world is not moving quickly enough to reduce making use of nonrenewable fuel sources and minimize carbon emissions”.

The Washington Posts weather editor Jason Samenow penned a piece warning that “climate change research studies have warned for more than three years that this is our future”. In the opening paragraphs, he composed:.

The record-breaking heat throughout Canada and the western United States has received widespread nationwide and worldwide attention over the past couple of days– and lots of media outlets have likewise been maintaining a running narrative of the temperature records being broken..

Other pieces also alerted that the stopping working infrastructure highlights the requirement to implement adaptation measures. “Adaptation, long the neglected arm of environment policy, will need to lead our efforts to deal with increasing global temperature levels”, said Atlantic personnel author Robinson Meyer..

A different analysis piece in the Washington Post noted that “we cant overstate how extraordinary the heat is thats blanketing the Pacific north-west”. The piece said that 55 nations have set new all-time highs simply in the past decade, including that this is “clearly a function of the worlds regular temperature levels shifting higher as a result of climate modification”.

” The example that individuals often use is packing the dice– you have dice and they used to be fair, but now were packing up the 6s … But whats in fact occurring is were striking the point where weve included another side. Now were rolling 7s.”.

Public authorities also weighed in. Washington state guv Jay Inslee penned a piece in the Seattle Times, cautioning that “our current discomfort is but the idea of the melting iceberg … What we felt this week is simply the opening act in a looming international disaster.”.

The Washington Posts Capital Weather Gang reported on Tuesday that the heatwave is “wiping out scores of long-standing records”– consisting of a list of the 33 “all-time record highs” set because Saturday. The New York Times said that Canadas climate record has actually been “shattered” and BBC News reported that the heatwave is “sending records toppling”.

” The function of climate modification has been to significantly increase the likelihood of record-breaking temperature levels. Easy logic determines a climate experiencing a background warming of numerous degrees will be more vulnerable to hotter heat events.”.

Man cools off at a cooling shelter in Portland, Oregan. Credit: Sipa United States/ Alamy Stock Photo.

Before this heatwave, the greatest taped temperature in the region was 45C. Portland, in Oregon, broke its all-time greatest temperature level record on Saturday, the Guardian reported, with temperature levels reaching 42.2 C (108F). According to BBC News, Seattle recorded temperatures of 38.3 C (101F) on Saturday afternoon– the citys record-high temperature for June. A historical heat wave is now underway in the Northwest as a heat dome heightens. As the heatwave advanced, reporters started to put more focus on the link in between climate change and the severe temperatures.

A more Washington Post post mentioned that the event “could not have been this extreme without human-caused environment modification”. It continued:.

Ive dealt with environment projections for 25 years so we understood this was coming: yet its still a shocker when you see these records falling in reality in a place youre from. https://t.co/pdPpVYhiuv— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) June 29, 2021.

The editorial also kept in mind that both record-breaking highs and lows of temperature have triggered power blackouts in the US this year. It alerted:.

” The countrys infrastructure is not prepared to stand up to the attack of climate modification, which can push temperature levels to extremes in both directions.”.

” Many have actually revealed shock about this unmatched heat wave. Yet the writing has actually been on the wall for years. Since the 1980s and 1970s, climate scientists have actually cautioned that global warming would make heat waves more regular, lasting and intense. Maybe its just now that the truth is striking home.”.

The piece includes that, according to Canadian climate researcher Dr Katherine Hayhoe, “Canada was warming twice as quick than the remainder of the world and monthly greater temperatures were being broken three times more regularly than cold temperature level records”.

MSNBC called the boost in demand for air conditioning a “catch-22”, mentioning that “the air conditioning we significantly require to make it through is eliminating the planet”.

” Turns out, the [climate] models were correct and we must expect extreme heat waves– even unprecedented ones like this– to end up being more routine”.

Reporting by the Guardian consisted of comments from Democratic senator Maria Cantwell, who said the heat “illustrated an urgent need for the federal facilities bundle to promote clean energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions and secure people from extreme heat”.

As the heatwave advanced, press reporters started to position more focus on the link in between environment modification and the extreme temperatures. On Wednesday, the Guardian reported that President Joe Biden had “joined researchers in blaming the environment crisis for [the] record-shattering heatwave”. The paper continues:.

Sharelines from this story.

NBC News described how climate modification “loads the dice” for heatwaves. Nevertheless, Dessler– writing for Grist– argued that the loaded dice example is no longer strong enough:.

The Associated Press also reported that the heatwave was “worsened by human-caused climate change”. Scientific American covered the heatwave under the headline, “Unprecedented heat wave in Pacific north-west driven by climate modification”, and the Independent ran a piece entitled, “Once-in-a-millennium heat dome lodges over US and Canada in preview of future climate disaster”.

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