Climate challengesJune Ends with Exceptional Heat

An exceptional and dangerous heatwave is baking the Northwestern U.S. and Western Canada in areas which are more synonymous with the cold. Temperatures are likely to reach as high as around 45.0°C by day for perhaps five or more days, with extremely warm nights in between.

The extreme temperatures pose a major threat to people’s health, agriculture and the environment because the region is not used to such heat and many people do not have air conditioning. It is to be hoped that heat-health early warnings will limit the death toll.

So many records have been broken that it is difficult to keep track, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says.

The all-time Canadian record was broken on Sunday, with Lytton in British Columbia recording 46.6°C (1.6°C higher than the previous record set on 5 July 1937). Less than 24 hours later, Lytton broke this record again, reaching 47.9°C on Monday. 

These values are more typical of the Middle East than a province which is home to the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park. There is a consequent risk of  high glacier melt with the accompanying hazards like landslides.

Armel Castellan is a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. He said: We are not done with this yet.

“The North West Territories have recorded their all-time highest temperatures not just in June, but any point in the year.  We are setting records that have no business in being set so early in the season.”

“We have had many days of this in a row and each morning we wake up to a higher temperatures. This is what is dangerous and it is affecting people throughout many days where they are dehydrated and we have had many days where the temperature is higher than the day before,” Castellan said.

“Overnight lows being higher than our average daytime highs for late June is a really big deal. Our bodies need to cool off and recover before taking on another day of high temperatures. Another thing to think about is the infrastructure.