Three alarming facts you need to know about the Pacific Northwest heatwave

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
2021 has been defined by catastrophic events related to climate change. The heatwave in the Pacific Northwest has broken several heat records and been defined by triple-digit temperatures. Graphic by Cristobal Spielmann.

By Cristobal Spielmann

2021 has proven to be a year of noteworthy climate change-related events, none more evident than the recent heatwave sweeping over the northwest U.S. and parts of Canada. Here are some of the reasons why this heatwave should worry you. 

These heat records are indicative of an important measurement of climate change. 

One misunderstanding of climate change is that, because of increasing average temperatures, cold temperatures and record colds won’t happen or that the existence of colder days somehow disproves climate change. 

There will still be cold temperatures, but they will be rarer in comparison to hot temperatures. One measurement showing the impact of climate change from earlier decades in the 20th century compared to more recent decades is found by taking the ratio of record high temperatures compared to record low temperatures. 

In the United States, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the ratio was roughly 1:1 between record highs and lows in the contiguous U.S. During the 2000s, the ratio was around 2:1, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

The western heatwave in 2021 has already shattered several heat records in what has become a disturbing trend over the past several years. Seattle broke records in the triple digits that were set just in the past decade. As average temperatures rise, the ratio will favor record highs. 

The Northwest U.S. isn’t prepared for these temperatures. 

Because of the rarity of major heatwaves, many residents in the northwest were unprepared. Residents in cities like Seattle and Portland still don’t have sufficient air conditioning

Learn more about how some communities in the south are adapting to climate change here. 

Heatwaves and high temperatures in general don’t just mean increased health risks associated with heat. When combined with the megadrought sweeping states like California and Oregon, leading to extremely dry environments in chaparral biomes, it’s the perfect recipe for wildfires. 

Read more about how climate change is affecting wildfires here. 

This won’t be the last major heat story for the west coast. 

While it’s tempting to think of what’s happening in the northwest as an aberration, the truth is that this will only be one part of a much larger story about what’s happening in this region because of climate change.  

Areas of California are preparing for triple-digit temperatures while Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking Californians to cut down on water usage in the midst of the megadrought. 

This problem will only get worse if we continue warming the planet. Humans, especially those along the northwest, are going to have to prepare for a new future that involves frequent new heat records and dryness. 

DISCOVER MORE

SUGGESTED STORIES

How to tell if there’s climate misinformation on your feed

By Cristobal Spielmann Living in the social media age means getting bombarded with misinformation on a daily basis, whether that information comes in the form of videos, memes or poorly researched and written news articles. With climate change, that misinformation can be both pernicious and dangerous. It perpetuates myths about climate change not being real and not being caused by

Read More »

California representatives announce new California Coastal Caucus

SAUSALITO, CA — In an effort to address policy issues of importance to coastal California, congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) and congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) announced the launch of the Congressional California Coastal Caucus on August 20, 2021. The announcement took place at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, and was followed by a panel discussion with both congressmen, Dr. Jeff Boehm, Chief Executive Officer of The Marine Mammal Center, and Dr. Cara Field, Medical Director of The Marine Mammal Center and moderated by Carol Costello. One important focus of the caucus is climate change.

Read More »

What is reef-safe sunscreen, and why is it important?

The most important impact you can make is educating those around you, like family and friends. While your individual changes are a major step, there are still thousands of people using harmful sunscreens as protection. Each person you can educate to make the change means less chemicals effecting our coral reef ecosystems.

Read More »

View Stories by Date:

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Share:

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *