June 29, 2021

Pacific Northwest Cools Off; Canada Breaks All-Time Heat Record For Third Day In A Row

Over the past day or so, we've had a tropical storm make landfall in South Carolina, flash flooding from heavy storms in Oklahoma, gross heat along the I-95 corridor, and a few more tropical systems possibly brewing far out in the Atlantic. Despite all that, the big story continues to be the heat that's plaguing the western United States and Canada.

Our neighbo(u)rs to the north claim the big headline again today with Lytton, British Columbia, securing the country's all-time highest temperature on record for a mind-boggling third day in a row.

Lytton, located about 60 miles northeast of Vancouver, recorded a high temperature on Tuesday of 121.1°F/49.5°C, once again setting Canada's all-time high temperature record.

The previous record, set on Monday, reached 118.2°F/47.9°C.

Monday's high temperature broke Sunday's all-time record of 115.9°F/46.6°C. 

Before this heat wave, the hottest air temperature ever recorded in Canada was 113°F/45°C, achieved during a heat wave in Saskatchewan in July 1937. 
Source: Google Earth

Lytton was the perfect spot (in a manner of speaking) to break this record three days in a row. The tiny town sits in a tight valley along the Fraser River that cuts longitudinally through the heart of British Columbia. Lytton's low-lying location makes it an effective heat sink during a record-shattering heat wave.

It's been historically putrid across the Pacific Northwest. The anomalies were so great that some meteorologists speculated last week that the models were broken for showing high temperatures soaring past the all-time highs in cities like Seattle and Portland.

The not-so-funny thing about extreme weather is that we have little frame of reference for events like the one winding down in the Northwest. We had no reason to believe the models showing highs climb so high above the previous records because that sort of thing is such a rarity.

It sure did happen.

Portland blew past its previous hottest temperature record by 9°F—topping its own record three days in a row. Salem, Oregon, set its new record by the same margin. The Dalles, Oregon, where readings are taken a few miles away in Dallesport, Washington, broke its all-time high by 7°F. Seattle broke its all-time high temperature by 5°F.

Most all-time high temperature records are tied or toppled by just a degree or two. This kind of heat was unimaginable just a week ago. And it's taken its toll.

It'll probably be a while before we get a full idea of how many people were injured or killed by the heat. Preliminary reports indicate that dozens of sudden deaths were attributable to the heat up in British Columbia. Extreme heat waves in Europe, where many homes also don't have air conditioning, have claimed hundreds of lives in recent decades. Chicago's extreme heat wave in July 1995 killed more than 700 people.

As for the heat wave itself, the worst is over along the I-5 corridor. The ridge began to weaken and move inland on Tuesday, allowing the marine layer to reassert control over coastal communities in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Tuesday's high temperatures "only" made it to 84°F in Seattle and 93°F in Portland—still above normal and it still felt miserable with the humidity, but it was a far cry from what they've seen over the last few days.

Hot weather will continue in eastern Washington and the Intermountain West for the remainder of the week, however, as the ridge parks itself over the northern Rockies and Plains/Prairies. Temperatures in the upper 90s to low 100s will spread over the northern Plains and Canadian Prairies through the weekend before the ridge finally starts to subside and the pattern starts moving along again.

There's no rain to speak of in the Weather Prediction Center's 7-day forecast, which is terrible news for wildfire prospects over the next week. Several large fires have already broken out in British Columbia and northern California (the smoke each can be seen in the satellite image at the top of this post). The extreme heat dried out the already-parched vegetation across the region, and continued warm and dry conditions could allow further fires to spark and spread with relative ease.

[Top Image: NOAA]

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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 contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.