It has become a common problem in recent years –plagues the western United States. Now, for the third time since the beginning of June, a life-threatening heat wave is underway. While this event is not expected to be quite as unprecedented as last week, records from all time will be challenged in major cities like Las Vegas, Fresno and Redding, California.
This latest heatwave comes on the heels of the hottest June on record for the United States. A new study released on Wednesday shows that the Northwest Pacific heat wave from June 27 to June 29 was carried outof man-made climate change and, even in today’s warming climate, is a rare 1-in-1,000-year event. The study, in a collaboration between 27 climate scientists, warned that if we continue to warm the climate, extreme heat waves will happen once every 5 to 10 years in the middle of the century.
Although the Pacific Northwest will be warm in the coming days, the core of this latest heat dome is centered further south across the Desert Southwest and Southern California.
persistent mountains of hot air are stacked vertically in the atmosphere, caused by slow-moving or even stopped patterns in the jet stream, called blocks.
This means that the warmest temperatures are found in areas such as Las Vegas and Redding. In these two cities, altitudes are expected to reach 117 to 119 degrees Fahrenheit. If mercury violates these readings, full-time heights fall again.
Both Saturday and Sunday, the high temperature is expected to reach 130 degrees in Death Valley. If this threshold is reached, it will bind what is consideredon Earth, which was set last year in Death Valley. (The world record of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley in 1913, is strongly disputed by climatologists but is still considered official.)
The heat wave will rise on Sunday and then begin to ease early next week. But the signs that this overall global blocking pattern will relax anytime soon are few and far between. So it is likely that such heat domes will continue to reappear from place to place during the summer.
In both cases, man-made climate change is making these heat waves more intense. Scientists have determined a rule of thumb: With the average long-term global temperature rising by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, the heat wave intensity must increase by about double or 4 degrees Fahrenheit. This is according to world weather subsidy researcher Professor Geert Jan van Oldenborgh from the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute.
But he says the Pacific Northwest heatwave defied logic with temperatures far exceeding expectations. Until recently, he explained, “It looked like the regions’ heat waves were well-behaved, with temperatures gradually rising with global warming, about twice as fast as the global average temperature. And so we got this.”
Oldenborgh mentions a possible explanation for these heat waves outside the borders is the possibility that we have crossed a threshold in our climate system where non-linear effects are starting to play a role. In that case, the probability of these kinds of events has become much greater. This, he says, needs to be investigated further.
One thing is for sure: the heat of intensity being experienced in the western United States right now is a killer. In the recent Northwest Pacific heat wave alone,, and the number continues to rise. On average, heat waves kill more people in the United States than any other type of extreme weather.
Annually, around 500,000 deaths are attributed to extreme heat, and a recent study showed that more than a third of the global.
There is agreement in the climate science community that heat waves will grow more frequently and more intensely as we continue to warm the planet. We cannot call what we see today “the new normal” because it continues to get worse.
But scientists also stress that we know how to solve this challenge, and we have the tools to do so: Stop burning fossil fuels and temperatures will stop rising. All that is missing, they say, is the political willpower to make it happen at the pace necessary to avert catastrophic consequences.