Unfathomable heat helped June smash North America record
June was the hottest on record for North America and the fourth hottest globally. AccuWeather experts warn that intense heatwaves are occurring more often and lasting longer.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), an agency supported by the European Union, said that average surface temperatures for June in North America were about one-quarter of a degree Fahrenheit (0.15 of a degree Celsius) higher than the average for June 2012, the previous record-holder.
Additionally, last month’s average temperature was more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average from 1991-2020.
“These heat waves are not happening in a vacuum. They are happening in a global climate environment that is warming and which makes them more likely to occur,” said C3S climate scientist Julien Nicolas.
The heat dome above southwestern Canada and the western United States generated headlines around the world last month as daily temperature records -- and even all-time record highs -- were shattered.
In Portland, the temperature shot up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit on June 28, smashing the previous all-time record high set on each of the previous two days and setting a new all-time high benchmark for the city. Prior to last month's heat wave, the highest temperature ever recorded in Portland was 107 in August 1981.
“In areas west of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, especially places near the coast, temperatures reached levels that were hard to fathom," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Thompson noted. "A 100-degree day is already an incredibly hot day in Seattle, and it reached 108 degrees on the 28th [of June].”
The 108 F in Seattle set a new all-time record high in the city.
As Portland and Seattle were setting all-time highs, so was Canada. In Lytton, a town nestled in the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia, the temperature reached 121 F (49.6 C), the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada.
A sign displaying the current temperature is shown after events were postponed due to high heat at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Eugene, OR. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The heat prolonged and intensified a severe drought which is diminishing water supplies and adding to what is likely to be a severe wildfire season.
"Over 90% of the western U.S. along with a large portion of southwestern and south-central Canada are currently under drought conditions, which can also enhance heat waves as more of the sun's energy can go directly toward heating the surface and less of it trying to evaporate moisture out of the ground," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, who also writes a climate blog.
AccuWeather's team of expert forecasters described the heat wave as "unprecedented," "life-threatening" and "historic" but warn that heat events like the one endured in the Northwest last month could likely become more common.
Portland infrastructure crumbles under 116-degree heat. (Photo credit: Bill Wadell)
"With regard to climate change, it is expected that the jet stream will become more wavy in the future as average temperatures continue to climb, making extreme heat events, more common," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins explained.
The record-breaking heat wave caused at least 107 heat-related deaths in Oregon, according to CNN. In Washington state, a total of 57 heat-related deaths were reported from June 26 to July 1. The Multnomah County Medical Examiner described the heat-related fatalities as "a mass casualty event."
In British Columbia, 719 people suddenly died over the course of the heat wave. According to CBC in Canada, that's triple the number of deaths that would normally occur in the province during a one-week period.
"The majority of people who died were older and living alone, and many waited hours for help as B.C.'s ambulance services became overwhelmed when temperatures rose above 40 C in southern B.C. from June 25 to July 1 and longer in some areas," the CBC reported, referencing temperatures reaching above the 104-degree-Fahrenheit mark.
It's not just North America that's enduring extreme heat, according to the Copernicus analysis. Europe suffered through its second-warmest June ever, with only June 2019 having been warmer. Globally, last month was the fourth hottest June ever. Only 2016, 2019 and 2020 were hotter.
And Anderson said he sees the warming trend continuing in the future.
"Due to climate change, odds clearly favor that this prolonged string of above-normal Junes for North America will continue for the foreseeable future," he said. "Climate change is likely to make extreme heat waves and severe droughts like what we just saw more common and longer in duration over the coming decades, especially in the western half of North America."
Adkins agreed and said that's why it's imperative that more resources and efforts should be devoted to helping people through these events safely.
"It is in the best interest of local, state, and federal agencies to draft more robust action plans to deal with extreme heat events," Adkins said, "because the next one will be here sooner rather than later. They’re going to become more frequent and even more severe, particularly in the northern United States and Canada."
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier, Spectrum, FuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories