The heat wave centered on the Pacific Northwest has felled records across the region on both sides of the border. But those records barely lasted 24 hours in some cases. Even before the hottest part of the day, the mercury once again reached heights never before seen in the region more known for drizzle than sizzle.
Salem, Oregon, is at 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius), which tops the record it just set on Sunday. In fact, the heat is so high that it would be just a degree off the all-time high for Las Vegas. You know, the city 740 miles (1,191 kilometers) south that’s in the middle of the desert and synonymous with triple-digit heat. As I was writing this post, though, the Canadian city of Lytton, British Columbia, did hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for the entire country (the same town set the record on Sunday). Or more accurately, it hit 47 degrees Celsius which rounds up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Which look, no matter how you cut it, it’s hot as hell.
Portland hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), which breaks the record it also set Sunday, which broke a record set on Saturday. Seattle copped a sea breeze just in time to avoid the 110-degree-Fahrenheit (43.3-degree-Celsius) mark that was in the forecast. But the temperature still blew past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) on Monday for the third day in a row, something that’s never happened in recorded history.
Quillayute, Washington, a town on the Olympic Peninsula located just a shade under 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the coast, hit 109 degrees Fahrenheit (42.8 degrees Celsius). That destroyed the record set in 1981 by a staggering 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius), something that just doesn’t happen. (Records usually fall by a degree or maybe two.)
The intense heat is destroying the region’s infrastructure that was never built for withstanding the onslaught of temperatures this high, let alone for such a long duration. People are also succumbing to heat-related illnesses and trying to beat the heat however possible in a region where air conditioning isn’t the norm.
The story of intense heat is hardly limited to one corner of the country or the U.S.-Canada border even. Much of North America with stifling heat extending from the Canadian Arctic to Baja California as well a stretch from the Gulf Coast to Prince Edward Island. The Pacific Northwest’s heat wave rightfully is grabbing most of the headlines because it’s unprecedented, but I can tell you that New York feels like sitting in a dog’s mouth right about now.
The map at the top of the page, which shows the Earth wind map, gives a bird’s eye (or more accurately, alien’s eye) view of the situation. The map shows something called the misery index. Using data from weather models, the index factors in not just temperature but also humidity. In the cold months, the index also weighs things like wind chill, and honestly, I would kill for that toe-numbing feeling right now. The current visualization looks like North America has a sunburn. Which, frankly, feels about right.
This onslaught of heat is what the climate crisis looks like. Burning fossil fuels have cranked up the temperature of the planet about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), but that type of heat shifts the odds so what was once rare becomes normal and what was once unthinkable occurs. Unfortunately, that means you may want to bookmark the misery index since it’s liable to come in handy in the future.