A historic “heat dome” hits the great west of Canada and the United States: “It happens every thousand years”

“The hottest temperatures of the historic heat wave underway are expected today across the Pacific Northwest,” warned the US National Weather Service (NWS).

In western Canada, temperature records were set over the weekend in British Columbia, as far as the Whistler ski resort.

In Lytton, a village northeast of Vancouver, the mercury climbed to 46.6 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was previously 45 degrees in 1937.

Stores are running out of air conditioners and fans, while cities have opened cooling centers. Vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 have been canceled, and schools closed.

“A prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist throughout this week,” Environment Canada warned.

It has issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, bordering Alaska.

“We are the second coldest country in the world and the snowiest,” unaccustomed to this “desert heat, very dry,” David Phillips, chief climatologist of Environment Canada, told AFP on Monday. ‘AFP.

“Desert”

On the other side of the border, too, Americans are being hit by sweltering temperatures in the northwestern states.

That day “will likely go down in history as the hottest day on record” in Seattle, Wash., Or Portland, Oregon, where records date back to the 1940s, the NWS wrote on Monday.

“This level of heat is extremely dangerous,” he warned.

“I have the impression of being in the desert”, testified Sunday a resident of Seattle, day when the thermometer reached 40 degrees Celsius.

A local market, the Ballard Farmers Market, had to close earlier, probably a first “because of the heat,” its director, Doug Farr, told AFP. “Most of the time it’s because of the snow.”

In Portland, where the thermometer reached 44.4 degrees on Sunday, residents were resting cool on mattresses and folding chairs in one of these makeshift centers at the convention center.

Not far from there, in the town of Eugene, the last events of the American Olympic athletics selections were postponed to Sunday evening.

“Every thousand years”

This heat wave is explained by a phenomenon called “heat dome”: high pressure traps hot air in the region.

This raises “serious” health concerns, notes David Phillips. Especially since it has lasted for several days.

The intensity of this “heat dome” is “so statistically rare that one might only expect it once every few thousand years on average,” wrote weather specialists at the Washington Post, the Capital. Weather Gang. “But human-induced climate change has made these kinds of exceptional events more likely.”

According to Nick Bond, climatologist at the University of Washington, climate change is a factor here, certainly, but “secondary”.

“The main element is this very unusual weather pattern,” he told AFP. That being said, “climate change is real, our temperatures have warmed up here,” which “made this episode of heat even more severe.”

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