The British Columbia residents in Canada are facing an unbearable reality even before the difficult summer months: the temperature gauge broke the heat records ever measured in Canada day after day this week, with 49.6 degrees Celsius last Tuesday – breaking a record set just the day before.
In a country whose residents barely need air conditioning on hot summer days due to its cooler temperature, the previous temperature peak was 45, and residents now report that getting out of the house has become almost impossible.
I didn’t think it was possible, not in my lifetime anyway.
+49.6°C in Canada 🇨🇦 That is 121°F!
This is the story of the Canadian heat record that was crushed on 3 consecutive days by an unfathomable margin of +4.6°C (+8°F).
This moment will be talked about for centuries. pic.twitter.com/Ogkn5KQKBM
– Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) June 30, 2021
In another 40 areas of Canada, heat records were broken, with residents not accustomed to dealing with such high temperatures, and homes in many of them have no air conditioning at all. Police in the Vancouver area reported this week that at least 130 people have died suddenly since Friday. Authorities estimate that the severe heat wave is a significant cause of abnormal mortality, with most of the dead being adults or having background illnesses.
Extreme #heatwave is baking Northwest USA and Western Canada
Major impacts for health, ecosystems and economy
Multiple records have been broken
Lytton smashed Canadian temperature record Sunday with 46.6°C and broke it again Monday with 47.9°C
Tnx @metoffice for this animation pic.twitter.com/mToCENwjdl
– World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) June 29, 2021
Like a lid on a cooking pot
But Canada is not alone. Also in a number of U.S. states, including Washington and Oregon, temperatures are breaking records and crossing the 46-degree mark, due to the formation of a “heat dome” – high air pressure that extends from California to Canada’s Arctic and acts like a lid on a cooking pot.
The U.S. Weather Service called the heat waves “historic” and said they would continue throughout the week, “with the possibility of breaking daily, monthly and possibly all-time temperature records.”
UNBEARABLE HEAT: With temperatures soaring in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, this mama bear and her two cubs decided to cool off with a dip in someone’s backyard pool. https://t.co/YaWl79VoqJ pic.twitter.com/tuDXknsU9Z
– ABC News (@ABC) June 30, 2021
For now, residents of both countries are trying to find refuge from the intense heat. Ingrid Jarrett, executive director of the British Columbia Hotels Association, told the British Guardian that residents of the Victoria and Okangen areas had booked air-conditioned rooms so they could continue working and get some sleep.
But even the states themselves are forced to offer creative solutions to residents who are unable to cope with the life-threatening heat: schools and corona vaccine centers are closing, while community “cooling centers” are opening in western Canada and parts of the western U.S. for residents without air conditioning access.
Cooling Center opened in Seattle following extreme heat wave / Photo: Associated Press, John Froschauer
The infrastructure, too, is having a hard time withstanding the load. In Portland, a shuttle company canceled its service because of melting cables, roads and sidewalks in the Seattle area began to rise and warp due to the intense heat.
In case you’re wondering why we’re canceling service for the day, here’s what the heat is doing to our power cables. pic.twitter.com/EqbKUgCJ3K
– Portland Streetcar (@PDXStreetcar) June 27, 2021
In Northwest, train cables melted due to the intense heat and train service was suspended, with temperatures breaking records day after day during the week. In both countries, many businesses were forced to close their doors in the name of intense heat.
Warmer than the body can tolerate
On the other side of the world, in the city of Jacobabad in Pakistan, it is hotter than the human body can bear, experts fear, after the temperature crossed the 52-degree mark. This is due to a phenomenon called “moist marble temperature”, which creates a mixture of moisture and heat that when its constant is crossed, the body can no longer cool itself through sweating, and the temperature can become fatal to a person. This area of Pakistan, along the Indus Valley, is considered one of the most vulnerable places to climate change in the world, and there is concern that in the future, the temperature in its territory will rise even more.
Mass funeral of people who died from the heat wave in Pakistan in 2015. The current heat wave is expected to be more severe / Photo: Associated Press, Fareed Khan
In Pakistan, many can not afford to protect themselves from the heat due to the need to go to work in the heat and sun, while the few who have an air conditioner at home – have to deal with regular power outages.
Now, the combination of heat and humidity makes Jacobbad one of only two places on Earth that has officially passed a warmer threshold than the human body can withstand, with a temperature that does not even allow it to touch the floor. This is a warmer temperature than that measured in 2015, when two heat waves in India and Pakistan killed more than 4,000 people.
While a single event of heavy heat does not indicate global warming, over the past few years temperature records have been repeatedly broken around the world, with experts saying that climate change is likely to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves.
The onset of a permanent emergency
Experts warn that heat waves are just the beginning, with extreme weather being the beginning of a “permanent emergency” that will be caused as global warming deepens, caused by man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Scientific forecasts are also consistent with long-term trends. For example, the seven warmest years measured since the temperature measurement began have occurred since 2014, according to the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Prof. Shlomit Paz, climatologist, head of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa, explains: “We are seeing trends breaking records of extreme temperatures in large parts of the world. Many are not accustomed to such temperatures and are not prepared to deal with them. These, which are increasing – both in terms of frequency, both in terms of strengths and in terms of continuity, are an expression of the climate crisis.
“Particularly worrying is that these heat waves are occurring in countries that are not prepared to deal with this situation. A study published this month in Nature’s Climate Change magazine examined 43 countries and showed that more than a third of deaths related to heat-related deaths are related to the climate crisis. That we scientists have been warning about it for many years.
“All the predictions and all the scenarios that relate to climate change speak of the continuing warming trend. If we continue in business as usual, these phenomena will multiply and worsen, so much so that there will be areas in the world where the human body will have a hard time surviving these temperatures. Air conditioners are a partial solution. “Energy and causes the emission of additional greenhouse gases that exacerbate the climate crisis, and in a state of extreme heat, electricity systems even in established countries are prone to collapse.”
Indeed, the Meteorological Service’s forecasts paint a dry and boiling picture of the future: the average temperature in Israel will rise by 4 degrees by the end of the century, rainy days will decrease, and the number of days when heavy heat prevails will increase and lengthen. Will Israel also have to deal with days of 50 degrees Celsius? According to Nir Satyu, director of the Meteorological Service, this is indeed the case.
“The heat is here to stay. As the atmosphere continues to absorb greenhouse gases at increasing concentrations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for heat to escape from Earth. Heat peaks are broken each time elsewhere on Earth year after year,” says Autumn. “Heat events that were rare in the past are becoming more and more common. Here in Israel there have already been heat waves that reached around 50 degrees and in at least one documented cross this value. There is no reason to think it will not happen again and again. If in Canada it can reach around 50 degrees. “Just imagine what temperature peaks we will see in our area in the next century. Area code 5 will not be so rare.”