As temperatures in the United States and Canada soar to an all-time high of 49.5°C, damage from heatwaves is continuing. Sudden deaths from vulnerable groups such as the elderly followed in southwestern Canada, and Washington state suffered a power outage due to heat waves. The New York Times described it as “an event that is likely to happen once in a thousand years”, saying that heat waves, drought, and fires came at once as a result of the climate crisis.
The Canadian Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said on the 29th (local time) that the temperature in the Return area of western British Columbia has soared to 49.5 degrees Celsius. It is the largest heatwave in 100 years since the late 1800s, when meteorological observations began in this area. Return, located 260 km northeast of Vancouver, where the 2010 Winter Olympics was held, had an average temperature of 1-3 degrees Celsius between June and August lower than Seoul, but it was hotter than Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on that day.
In the United States, a heat wave warning or advisory has been issued to about 20 million residents of the western region. In particular, in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, the previous day’s temperature was 42.2℃ and 46.1℃, respectively, the highest on record. The average temperature in June in both cities is 20-23°C.
The heat wave also caused a lot of deaths. CBC Canada reported that more than 100 people have died in Vancouver alone during the heat wave from the 25th to today. Most of the deaths were elderly or vulnerable groups with underlying medical conditions. Vancouver Police said, “Usually three to four people die suddenly a day, but 20 people died before 1:45 pm on the 29th. Sadly, dozens of people are dying from the heatwave.” In Arizona, the Arizona Republic reported that 53 people died in Maricopa County alone on the 12th and 19th of last month, when the heat wave continued. Oregon also said it was investigating whether the sudden death of a farm worker and two homeless people could be related to a heat wave.
Washington State suffered a power outage as the temperature rose to 42.2 degrees Celsius on that day. “Record heatwaves and unprecedented demand for electricity have impacted the distribution system and shut down power,” said Avista Utilities, a utility that supplies 9,300 homes in Spokane, Washington. Portland has halted high-speed light rail and streetcar service as power cables melt and demand for power surges. Some outdoor swimming pools have also been closed.
In California, drought has caused wildfires. The California Fire Department has been fighting a large fire in Shasta-Trinity National Park, where the national forest is located, from the previous day. An evacuation order has also been issued for 10,000 residents of nearby areas. California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona are preparing to replenish firefighting personnel and equipment, and provide disaster relief to affected residents.
The sweltering heat in the United States and Canada is due to the ‘heat dome’ phenomenon, in which hot high pressure covers the entire northern hemisphere like a dome. The Guardian noted that the temperature in the Pacific Northwest has risen by 1.7°C over the past 50 years, and that “the heat dome phenomenon is extending to the Arctic territories of Canada as well as southwestern California. The New York Times reported that “indiscriminate use of fossil fuels causes heat waves in the United States three times as often as in the 1960s, and the northern hemisphere has increased the area affected by heat waves by 25 percent compared to the 1980s,” more than the death toll from hurricanes and floods combined over the past 30 years. Many have warned that heatwaves could kill them. “This is the beginning of a permanent emergency,” Washington Governor Jay Insley said.
US President Joe Biden recently announced that he would prepare for the climate crisis with a $1.209 trillion infrastructure budget agreed to by the US Congress on a bipartisan basis. President Biden said at a press conference in Wisconsin that he would modernize the power grid to withstand extreme weather, strengthen coastal areas and dikes, and prepare infrastructure for wildfires and floods. “It was 116 degrees F (46.7 degrees C) in Portland, but don’t worry. Global warming does not exist. It is a product of our imagination.” It was an indirect criticism of former President Donald Trump for denying the climate crisis.