The title is a direct quote from the Weather Service about the heat dome over the Pacific Northwest. Meterologist are falling back on deeply scientific language, calling it “insane,” “bonkers” and “incredible.” According to the Washington Post:
The strength of the heat dome . . . is simply off the charts. Its intensity is so statistically rare that it might be expected only once every several thousand years on average.Washington Post
Once every several thousand years? Yeah, no. I think this is just a shot across our bows; just the beginning.I chose Seattle 25 years ago because of its temperate climate—specifically, because one late September night in Atlanta I woke up at 2 in the morning and it was still 74 degrees. No, I thought. No no no. Won’t. And we moved. Yet last night, at 2:38 am outside it was 86 degrees. This is so far from ‘normal’ I can’t wrap my head around it.
Here in Seattle:
- yesterday hit 102
- today heading for 106
- tomorrow to hit 111
For those who use 21st century measures, 111ºF is 44ºC. This heat is so all-encompassing that frankly I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around it. Yet we’re lucky: we live in one of Seattle’s real cool spots:
Also, we have central air-conditioning. This is good—I think I might be dead without it (I have MS: my nerve signals fail when I overheat)—but our system just isn’t designed to handle temperatures 21 degrees above previous records.
We’ve offered help to friends, and shelter for neighbours. I hope everyone out there has cold water, shade, and pre-cooked food. See you on the other side.
9 thoughts on “Historic, dangerous, prolonged, and unprecedented”
We’ve gone down to the Columbia River to stay with in-laws, usually much cooler with breeze. NOPE! AND there is a brown out!
I’m so glad you’re in one of the cooler spots in Seattle. Do you know why? I picture you on a west-facing slope which suggests heat, but maybe you’re close enough to the water to stay cool? I’m curious about the dynamics. Here in the narrow Slocan Valley we live on the east-facing slope which works really well year-round. In summer we fall into shadow in late afternoon, and the greater heat on the west-facing slope causes a catabatic wind – the warm air rising on that slope pulls cooler air down our side from the forest. Even a small breeze or temperature difference can be such a relief.
Aside, the eye-rolling habit of US and Canadian news media to truncate weather and wildfire maps at the border becomes less amusing as our need to understand the larger patterns deepens.
To widen the lens just slightly, here’s a map of the current Pacific Northwest heat dome that shows its 4 Sigma center way up thar in British Columbia, Canada:
I’m tucked just inside the skirts of the 4 Sigma area, a bit northwest of the tri-border of BC, Washington, and Idaho. Seattle is waaaay down there in balmy 3 Sigma. Enjoy the cool! One weather forecast shows Seattle’s high of 42/108 on Monday, immediately dropping 20 F for the rest of the week. Our own local Nelson forecast is 42/108 to 43/110 Monday through Thursday, dropping only 5 to 10 F thereafter. Lytton, BC northwest of us has set the record for the highest temperature (46.1) ever recorded in Canada, and its forecast for this week lingers up around 47/117. Even Phoenix, Arizona, labeled as the hottest place currently in the US, had a 45/108 day today, followed by a 10 degree drop for the rest of the week.
I’m not crying on your shoulder but rather just saying, count your blessings! It could be worse… and probably will…
I feel like the rollercoaster is just about to crest its first hill. Hang on~
Is it a freak occurrence, or is it climate change? It’s both.
Climate change makes this kind of weather more common and less extreme relative to normal, but it’s still way outside of our normal, even if warming continues unabated over the next several decades.
I had a rather lovely day today, actually. Went for a long walk outside. But I grew up in Phoenix, so I’m used to heat. I know how to handle it, I know my limits, and I have air conditioning to go home to.
Despite my nice weekend, I recognize that this insane weather is a hardship for many, many people who are not me, and may even turn deadly for some.
You’re absolutely right that this is a shot across our bow, even if it doesn’t represent a sudden acceleration in warming. The best time to deal with climate change was forty or fifty years ago, when we really began to understand the science. The second best time is right f***ing now.
You have my sympathy on the heat you are being exposed to currently. I couldn’t cope with that myself, and would need to keep my feet in a bowl of iced water with more to pour over my head. However, you can’t do that all day!
What steps are you taking to keep yourselves cool?
If you’re too hot to answer, don’t worry about that.
This reminds me of the first chapter in KSR‘s Ministry for the Future. Millions die because of heat in India. The future isn’t so far away.
Bless you AC!
@Paul: It’s because we live on a ravine that’s a finger of Carkeek Park, a big old trees-and-creeks space that abuts Puget Sound.
@Heath: We have central air conditioning, and we precooked enough food for several days. WE keep the curtains shut and the blinds down and any lights that aren’t LEDs off.
Sending you cooling thoughts and wishing your air conditioner strength…
“Once every several thousand years? Yeah, no.”
My dad used to have responsibility for local flood protection schemes as part of his job, so extreme weather stats were things he had to look at professionally. He commented to me more than once that, before he retired, he felt we were getting 100 year storms about once a decade. He retired in 1989.
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