July 15, 2021

Another Week Of Summer, Another Record-Breaking Heat Wave


Oh, look. It's another story about extreme heat breaking records somewhere. What a novel story angle.

It's hard for heat to become news. It's consistent. It's brutal. It claims a huge toll. But it's not sexy. There's no zhuzhing up week after week of hot temperatures.

This is what's made the recent spate of heat waves morbidly fascinating—it's been so hot, and the heat's broken so many records, that we couldn't escape the story even if we wanted to focus on rollicking thunderstorms or a swirly cloud in the Atlantic.

Lytton, British Columbia, witnessed Canada's hottest temperature ever recorded three days in a row. The town broke the national record by hitting 115.9°F on June 27, 118.2°F on June 28, and 121.1°F on June 29. Most of the town burned down in a wildfire on June 30.

Portland, Oregon, broke their all-time record high three days in a row, hitting 108°F, 112°F, and 116°F during the same heat wave. That 116°F record is 9°F hotter than the previous hottest-ever reading there.

Seattle, Washington, shattered its hottest-ever temperature two days in a row, hitting 104°F and 108°F, ultimately breaking its previous record high by 5°F. 

So far this year, Las Vegas, Nevada, has tied its all-time record high of 117°F once and they've seen a second-place high of 116°F twice.

Death Valley, California, tied its second-highest temperature on record when it hit 130°F on July 9, which might be the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. (The two official records, a 134°F reading in Death Valley and a 131°F reading in Tunisia, are both routinely questioned for their accuracy.)

Two days later, Stovepipe Wells, another station within Death Valley, recorded a high temperature of 129°F and a low temperature of 108°F. This pairing gave the station an average daily temperature of 118.5°F, which is preliminarily the hottest average daily temperature ever recorded on Earth.
This image from the GFS weather model shows an upper-level ridge building over the U.S. and Canada early next week. SOURCE: Tropical Tidbits

During a year when so many notable records have fallen, it's going to be hard to keep attention on the ongoing bursts of heat plaguing the much of the U.S. and Canada.

A strong upper-level ridge building over the Plains and Prairies will send temperatures soaring over next week, with several days in the 100s not out of the question in eastern Montana. Triple-digit readings are also likely in parts of the Intermountain West, California's Central Valley, and the desert Southwest.

Here's the NWS temperature forecast for Sunday, July 18:


And the same for Monday, July 19:


Those are just two of many hot days ahead. The National Weather Service's forecast for Glasgow, Montana, for the next seven days shows high temperatures of 97°F, 102°F, 101°F, 103°F, 105°F, 104°F, and 102°F. Six consecutive days at or above 100°F would tie Glasgow's longest such streak on record, originally set back in August 2003.

The ongoing record-breaking heat is a health hazard for folks who are susceptible to heat-related illnesses, those who work outside, and people who don't have access to air conditioning. It's awful news for farmers who are watching their crops slowly wither and burn in the unrelenting summer sun. It's worrying for the prospect of an already-awful wildfire season across the west.

I think we're close to running out of ways to describe it so it doesn't sound like it's a run-of-the-mill thing now. It's no good! It's bad! It's hot! It's not sustainable! It's got to break, or it's just going to keep getting worse.

[Satellite image (via NOAA) shows prolific wildfire smoke spreading over North America on July 15, 2021.]


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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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