Heat Getting Hotter: Pacific Northwest Sets Records — Again!

July 27, 2022

Not-so-bad heat near-noon Wednesday here in California’s Central Valley — almost pleasant you could say without being a sarcastic asshole. We’re forecast for a high of under 100 degrees today, so that’s the good news around these parts.

And for them parts farther north where another deadly, mean-ass heat wave across the Northwest, where air conditioning is not usually part of the community infrastructure, there’s misery — here we’d be f*cked if there was no AC. Second summer in a row the Pacific Northwest has been slammed with a high-intensity heat wave.

Climate change making a difference:

However, after last summer’s bout with great heat, the region has learned — via The Washington Post this morning:

One year after the worst Pacific Northwest heat wave on record left hundreds dead, the region finds itself better prepared, even as it continues to grapple with the challenges that come with periods of extreme weather.

This week’s heat event already broke daily records across Oregon and Washington state Tuesday: In Salem, the temperature reached a zenith of 103 degrees, tying a previous record set in 1939. Another record high of 102 was set in Portland. Seattle soared to a record 94.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) declared a state of emergency Tuesday in 25 counties lasting until Sunday, and ordered the state’s emergency management department to coordinate a response. Almost the entire region, including parts of Northern California, Nevada and Idaho, were under heat advisories or excessive-heat warnings from the National Weather Service. Some areas of eastern Washington and interior Oregon could see temperatures eclipse 110 degrees this week.

The heat is not predicted to ease until the weekend. Portland and Seattle, both under excessive warnings until Thursday, are forecast to endure historically long streaks of temperatures above 95 and 90 degrees, respectively.

That disaster spurred a reevaluation for the historically temperate region as climate change fuels intensified heat waves. Since then, local governments and nonprofits have ramped up emergency heat relief efforts, tapping into grants and building partnerships to do so.

“Last year was definitely a wake-up call for Oregon,” said Candace Avalos, executive director of Verde, an environmental justice nonprofit in Portland.

While memories linger from last year’s record-breaking heat dome, the general public’s response to the current temperatures has appeared less frenzied. Temperatures are expected to crest in the low 90s — and while those temperatures are not unheard of in Seattle, the heat wave’s anticipated duration of five days is unusual. Heat will accumulate in residences by the end of the week, which can make sleeping difficult and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

The city has launched its standard heat wave response plan, which includes cooling centers at libraries, senior centers and community centers. For those who work outdoors, meanwhile, the state announced emergency heat regulations that went into effect mid-June.
When the temperature reaches 89 degrees, employers must provide workers with at least a quart of cool water per hour and at least a 10-minute, paid cool-down break every two hours. While heat regulations for outdoor workers have been in place for more than a dozen years, the state’s Department of Labor and Industries has issued emergency regulations for the past three summers while permanent rule changes are under negotiation.

Preparation for the shit climate change is bringing full-bore down on humanity will help, but the biggest action should be cutting emissions — but what is that?
The view of our immediate future. Craig Ramseyer, an assistant professor who studies climate modeling in the Department of Geography at Virginia Tech (via Phys.org last week): ‘“Climate change is here and it’s already changing human behavior and causing significant societal impacts … As global temperatures rise, historically excessive temperatures are more likely to occur … Hurricanes, tornadoes, and flash floods drive more media attention because of the innate fascination with the visual intensity of those types of hazards. However, heat does not tend to be as fascinating and it becomes very difficult to communicate the danger to the public … Around the world, more fatalities occur due to extreme heat than from hurricanes, flooding, and drought combined. It disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable of our citizens who do not have adequate access to air conditioning, water, and other important resources.”

Picture climate change as an E.L.E instead of a comet, and you’d get a gist of where we stand:

Despite a young, wondrous Téa Leoni, here we are once again…

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Hell Canto 2: Giants,’ found here.)

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