A brutal and highly anomalous heat wave has broken temperature record after temperature record in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia — including the all-time highest temperature in Canadian history.
It hit 112 degrees at Portland’s International Airport on Sunday, the hottest recorded temperature in the city since records began in 1940. That broke the record of 108 degrees, set on Saturday. Seattle also broke its all-time record on Sunday, hitting 104 degrees.
On Monday, it is expected to be even hotter, with Portland forecast to swell to a mind-boggling 114 degrees and Seattle to 110, before the global-warming-spurred “heat dome” that is enveloping the area dissipates. Meteorologists are struggling to contextualize the magnitude of the heat, with the National Weather Service’s forecaster writing that “as there is no previous occurrence of the event we’re experiencing in the local climatological record, it’s somewhat disconcerting to have no analogy to work with.”
It’s so hot that Olympic track-and-field trials were abruptly halted in Eugene, Oregon, Sunday afternoon, after fans had already entered the stadium. The temperature at the time was 110 degrees, and a USA Track and Field official told NBC the mercury had reached 150 degrees on the surface of the track. One athlete, the heptathlete Taliyah Brooks, collapsed, and had to be carted off the track in a wheelchair after having completed four of the seven heptathlon legs. She later withdrew from the event altogether. The trials resumed on Sunday evening, when the temperature had fallen to a relatively chilly 99 degrees.
The Pacific Northwest is not used to heat anywhere close to this. The average high temperature in Portland for late June is about 73 degrees, and, as in Washington State, large swathes of the population do not have air-conditioning — though that is changing in an era of rapid climate change.
The area will finally see relief on Tuesday into Wednesday as the scorching temperatures move eastward. But the days of record-breaking temperatures are clearly a sign that weather once considered extreme will soon be a lot less unusual than it once was.