US and Canada heatwave sees record temperatures

People take shelter in a cooling centre in Portland
People have been taking refuge at cooling centres

A sweltering heatwave has hit large parts of the US Pacific Northwest and Canada, sending records tumbling.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) has issued excessive heat warnings and watches across nearly all of Washington and Oregon state. Parts of California and Idaho are also affected.

Multnomah county, in Oregon, has warned of “life-threatening” heat. Some cities have opened cooling centres, where residents can escape the heat in air-conditioned buildings. The soaring temperatures are due to a dome of high pressure hovering over northwestern United States and Canada.

Experts say climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, however linking any single event to global warming is complicated. As the climate changes, there could be an increase in the number of deaths from floods, storms and heatwaves, experts say.

NWS said that even hotter temperatures were forecast on Sunday and Monday throughout the Pacific Northwest and Northern Great Basin. It warned of “several more days of dangerous heat across the northwest corner of the country as well as parts of western Nevada and California”. Despite the warnings many people have been enjoying the sunshine, with lakes busy and pools running at full capacity.

Temperatures are expected to soar 20 – 30F above average in Washington and Oregon states. Seattle and Portland are expected to break their current all-time high temperature records on both Sunday and Monday. On Saturday, temperatures in Seattle reached 101F making it the hottest June day there on record. “Residents are urged to avoid extended periods of time outdoors, stay hydrated and check on vulnerable family members/neighbours,” NWS said.

Shops have sold out of portable air conditioners and fans and a number of Covid vaccination drives have been cancelled.

People take part in a Pride rally in Seattle
The National Weather Service has warned of dangerous heat in the Pacific Northwest

The area normally sees mild weather and many people do not have air conditioning.

Oregon’s health authority has removed Covid-19 capacity limits at large venues with air conditioning such as cinemas and shopping malls in order for people to take shelter from the heat.

In Canada, British Columbia recorded the hottest temperature in the country on Saturday – 43.2C. Parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories are under a heat warning.

The heat there is also expected to continue through the week with records expected to fall.

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