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Scientists Call Northwest Heatwave the ‘Most Extreme in World Weather Records’

Wildfires rage amid a devastating heatwave in the Pacific Northwest

Flames surround the drought-stricken Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California on July 2, 2021. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Scientists Call Northwest Heatwave the ‘Most Extreme in World Weather Records’

“Never in the century-plus history of world weather observation have so many all-time heat records fallen by such a large margin.”

A pair of climate scientists on Thursday said the record-high temperatures that have ravaged the northwestern U.S. and western Canada over the past week—killing hundreds and sparking dozens of wildfires—represent the “world’s most extreme heatwave in modern history.”

“It’s not hype or exaggeration to call the past week’s heatwave the most extreme in world weather records.”
—Bob Henson, Jeff Masters

“Never in the century-plus history of world weather observation have so many all-time heat records fallen by such a large margin than in the past week’s historic heatwave in western North America,” meteorologist Bob Henson and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricane scientist Jeff Masters wrote for Yale Climate Connections.

“It’s not hype or exaggeration to call the past week’s heatwave the most extreme in world weather records,” they argued. “The only heatwave that compares is the great Dust Bowl heatwave of July 1936 in the U.S. Midwest and south-central Canada. But even that cannot compare to what happened in the Northwest U.S. and western Canada over the past week.”

In British Columbia, the chief coroner said her office has received nearly 500 reports of “sudden and unexpected” deaths since last Friday, many of which are believed to be connected to the record temperatures that the region has suffered in recent days.

Residents of the small British Columbia village of Lytton—which on Tuesday recorded Canada’s all-time high temperature of 121°F—were forced to evacuate Wednesday as a wildfire ripped through the area and quickly engulfed the small town, destroying homes and buildings.

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