The Pacific Northwest is bracing for a potentially record-breaking heat wave this weekend and next week, with temperatures in some areas expected to warm to triple digits and higher.
Scorching heat is very unusual in a region typically known for its moderate climate.
“It will be unprecedented,” said Nick Bond, a Washington state climatologist. “Probably both in terms of the maximum temperatures that are reached, especially on Sundays and Mondays, the minimum temperatures that are going to occur for a few nights like this, and then the duration of the very high temperatures.”
Last week, the National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In a statement on Friday, the agency warned that “high daytime temperatures, combined with warm nighttime lows, will result in a high risk of heat and heat-related stress.”
All three states could beat their all-time heat record for June (113F for Washington and Oregon, and 114F for Idaho), according to the National Weather Service.
The scorching is the result of a high-pressure system north of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, said Larry O’Neill, a climatologist for the state of Oregon. The result will be that hot air will be forced over the Cascade Mountains and blown across the region.
At the same time, Bond explained, it is further aggravated by the gradual rise in temperatures due to global warming.
“That increase in the baseline has meant that just when these types of events occur, they are a little more severe as a result,” he said.
In Seattle, known for rain and cloudy days, where only one third of homes have air conditioningAccording to a 2015 report, the National Weather Service reported that temperatures could reach 103 ° F on Sunday and 106 ° F on Monday.
That would exceed the city’s all-time record of 103 ° F and is expected to reach at least a week before the region begins to see any kind of extremely high temperatures. But it would also mark only the third time Seattle has reached or exceeded 100 ° F since Sea-Tac Airport began documenting conditions in the 1940s, according to Bond.
There is also a concern that high temperatures will linger overnight, leaving little time to cool down before the cycle begins again. Only the Sunday night low in Seattle is expected to dip to 72 degrees, which would exceed the all-time high for nighttime lows.
In a statement released Monday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan advised residents to “drink plenty of water, reduce strenuous outdoor activities, monitor neighbors and people at risk for heat-related illnesses, and not leave pets in the car. “
Areas outside of Seattle are expected to get even hotter, with parts of the Columbia Basin in southeastern Washington, including the Tri-Cities, potentially reaching 115F.
Officials in these states have begun opening facilities for some of the 13 million residents to cool off, including libraries, senior centers and community centers, while making swimming pools available.
In Oregon, at least two-thirds of the state could experience an unprecedented amount of heat in the next few days. While Pendleton, in northeast Oregon, could end up tying its all-time high of 110F two days in a row, Portland could hit 109F, breaking its all-time high of 107F.
Experts recommend taking precautions such as drinking plenty of water, taking breaks in air-conditioned places, using fans, and taking advantage of slightly cooler temperatures at night.
“This is a life-threatening heat,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, a health official for Multnomah County, which includes Portland, in a statement Wednesday. “People need to find an attractive place to hang out for the next few days. And for people who already have a cool place, their job is to reach out to other people. Ask them to join you or help them get to a place that’s reasonably cool. “
The extreme heat follows another brutal heat wave that recently hit the southwestern US, causing temperatures in Arizona, Nevada, and California to skyrocket as high as 120 ° F.
Idaho is also expected to see extremely hot days this weekend and next week. Boise could hit 107 ° F on Thursday, just a few degrees cooler than its all-time high. Baker, in southern Idaho, may also not exceed its all-time high of 109F, with temperatures expected to hit 104F on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
Although this is considered an unusual meteorological event, O’Neill said it is clear that it will not be the last.
He said it’s time for the region to start rethinking its systems for dealing with these kinds of extreme weather events, whether that’s expanding cooling centers, especially for the homeless, reexamining heat thresholds for outdoor work, or making sure you have sufficient medical services for heat-related emergencies.
“Many of the climate model projections suggest that we will see more extreme heat events like this one,” he said. “So this is something we can look forward to in the future, and possibly more frequent.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism