An unprecedented heat wave hits western Canada and the northwestern United States. The extreme heat has even put the White House on alert, which this Wednesday will debate how to respond to the risks posed by the combination of extremely high temperatures and a very severe drought; The combination of both factors triggers the possibility of devastating fires, such as those that have plagued part of the northwestern United States for weeks, with an extension even broader than that reached by the wild fires in previous years.
Experts have explained that the rise in thermometers in Canada is due to high static pressure, giving rise to a phenomenon known as “heat dome.” This Sunday, the town of Lytton (province of British Columbia) broke the record for the highest temperature recorded in Canada. The figure reached 46.6 degrees Celsius, surpassing the 45 degrees that affected two towns in the province of Saskatchewan in 1937. In all, 65 towns in western Canada broke their temperature records this weekend.
This Monday, dozens of schools in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and other urban centers closed as a preventive measure, as well as various businesses and offices. The Canadian Ministry of the Environment issued an alert notice, informing that the heat wave will continue for a few more days, also affecting the province of Alberta. The ministry indicated that temperatures are expected to exceed 37 ° in Edmonton and Calgary, the main cities of this province.
“It is hotter in some parts of western Canada than in Dubai,” said David Phillips, climate officer at the ministry. Local media indicate that electricity consumption in British Columbia has skyrocketed to mitigate the effects of the heatwave. Several cities have set up centers so that people can protect themselves and cool off. Likewise, the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus has been temporarily suspended in some places.
Extreme heat also affects the rest of North America. The northwest of the United States has registered record temperatures in recent weeks and has forced the White House to act. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will convene Cabinet officials, Western state governors and private sector agents to discuss “the devastating intersection of drought, heat and wildfires in the western United States.” The meeting also aims to increase and coordinate prevention and response efforts for the wildfire season, which already exceeds in number, intensity and scope the major fires recorded last year.
This Sunday, the extreme heat, with temperatures that exceeded 43 ° – the highest in the history of the city since there are records -, forced the suspension of qualifying tests for the Tokyo Olympics in Eugene (Oregon). The competitions had to be rescheduled for the late afternoon, given that the deadline for contesting the selection tests expired at midnight. Portland, the largest city in Oregon, expected to reach 45 ° this Monday, two more than those registered this Sunday at its airport – where the average at this time of year is 22.7 ° – and the highest temperature in the city since 1940.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the government’s public health agency, has posted notices on its website reminding that extreme heat kills at least 600 Americans each year. By mid-June, more than 50 million Americans, in eight states, had received an alert from the National Weather Service, as the power grids prepared for the contingency of excess consumption that exceeded their capacity.
The extreme heat wave, coupled with the persistent drought, has triggered the number of forest fires. In mid-June, 397,000 hectares had been burned, compared to 310,000 registered in the first half of 2020, according to data from the National Fire Center, the government’s interdepartmental agency. In Arizona, more than 84,000 hectares have burned; one of the fires, with an area of 50,000 hectares, is already among the 10 worst in the history of the State. The smoke produced by the fires could be seen in the neighboring state of Colorado.
In Utah, where there has been a new fire during each of the last 21 days, the area burned reaches 10,000 hectares, while the area burned in California has quadrupled compared to 2020.
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