Thermometer in front of a sunglare

Unprecedented Heat Wave Shatters Records in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest was recently affected by its most severe heat wave in history. Many areas saw their all-time high temperature records broken, in many cases by several degrees. The heat lingered for a few days, causing many deaths, affecting crops, and killing sea creatures such as mussels and clams. The worst heat occurred from June 26-29. The heat wave was caused by a stationary high pressure system that sat over the area for several days, with the heat building more each day.

Some of the most talked about records were Portland, OR and Seattle, WA setting new all-time high temperatures. During this stretch of oppressive heat, Portland set a new all-time high temperature of 116 F. The previous record was 107 F. Seattle soared to 108 F, while its previous record was 103 F. Seattle experienced triple digit temperatures three days in a row, which is the first time that has ever happened. This was particularly devastating for Seattle, as only 44% of homes have air conditioning installed, making it the least air conditioned large city in the country.

Perhaps even more impressive, however, is the record set in Lytton, British Columbia, in Canada. The temperature there reached 121 F, which is a new all-time high temperature record for all of Canada. The previous high temperature record for Canada was 113 F, so the record was not only surpassed, but shattered. In fact, Canada’s all-time high temperature record is now higher than Las Vegas’s – theirs is only 117 F!

Many other cities across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia also set all-time high temperature records, such as Spokane, Walla Walla, Olympia, Salem, Eugene, Coeur D’Alene, and Banff. There were some record warm low temperatures set as well, as the heat did not let up at night. Seattle hit a low of 73 F, which was their all-time warmest low temperature.

Sadly, many people died due to the extreme heat. Over 800 people perished due to the high temperatures, including over 500 people in British Columbia. The heat also melted power lines in some areas, and caused some roads to buckle. Crops such as wheat and cherries have also been adversely affected by the heat. Shellfish such as mussels and clams essentially got “baked” in the sun by the high temperatures.

Extreme temperature events have been on the increase in recent years, not only for high temperatures but also for low ones. Hopefully it will be a while before the Pacific Northwest sees all-time record high temperatures again.

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