Unprecedented Heat Wave in Pacific Northwest Driven by Climate Change

A blistering heat wave obliterated high temperature records in Oregon and Washington over the weekend, ratcheting up risks for deaths and fires, and underscoring the dangers of climate change.

Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, hit a sweltering all-time high of 112 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday at its international airport, the National Weather Service said. That broke a record of 108 F set just a day earlier. Both days topped the previous record of 107 F, reached in 1981 and 1965.

The temperature in Salem, Oregon’s capital, soared to 113 F yesterday, smashing a record of 108 F hit in 1941 and 1927.

The heat is expected to worsen today, with a jaw-dropping high of 115 F forecast for Portland, said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist in NWS’s Portland office.

“I have not seen very many events where places are breaking their all-time record high temperatures by 4 degrees, or 5 degrees,” said Neuman, who has been at NWS since 2008. “It’s one thing to break it by a degree or two, but it’s another thing to literally break it by 4 or 5 degrees, in places that have 100 years’ worth of data, or 120 years’ worth of data. That is pretty remarkable.”

Farther north, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hit 104 F yesterday a new all-time high that edged out the area’s previous record of 103 F, set in 2009.

Even beaches baked. Hoquiam, Wash., on the state’s west coast, reached 102 F. That shattered the previous record of 95 F set in 2016.

The forecast for today projects Seattle, Washington’s biggest and most populous city, will hit 110 F.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Dustin Guy, a meteorologist with NWS’s office in Seattle. “We’ve only had three days of 100 or more degrees in 126 years, and it looks like we’re ready to get three of them in a row now. There’s really nothing to compare it to. We’ve never in anybody’s lifetimes seen anything quite like this before in Seattle.”

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