More than 12 million people remained under a heat advisory on Sunday in the Pacific Northwest as temperatures on Saturday soared to more than 20 degrees higher than normal in Oregon and Washington State and toppled records that in some cases had been standing for decades.
“Record-breaking heat will impact the Pacific Northwest over the next couple of days,” forecasters with the Weather Prediction Center said on Sunday, adding that high temperatures “may tie or break existing records” and could be as much as 30 degrees above average for this time of year.
The Seattle region set temperature records in four locations on Saturday: Quillayute reached 90 degrees, breaking a record for the day of 80 degrees set in 1975; SeaTac reached 86 degrees, a degree above the record set in 2018; Olympia reached 89 degrees, a degree higher than the record set in 1973; and Hoquiam reached 89 degrees, a degree higher than the record set in 1973.
The city of Portland, Oregon, recorded a high of 93 degrees on Saturday, breaking a record for the day of 92 degrees set in 1973. Four other locations in Washington and Oregon either matched or broke temperature records for the day.
Alberta has declared a provincial state of emergency, and as of Saturday evening 16,611 people have been evacuated from their homes, authorities said.
Copernicus, an Earth observation component of the European Union’s space program, said in a news release last week that temperatures last month in Northern Canada were higher than average.
Days of abnormally high temperatures have contributed to the intensity of fires by drying out vegetation, making it more likely to ignite. Analyses have shown that climate change has increased the likelihood of such extreme heat waves.
While tying a single heat wave to climate change requires analysis, scientists have no doubt that heat waves around the world are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent.
The National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report by 13 federal agencies, noted in 2018 that the number of hot days was increasing, and that the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s.
The average season for heat waves has also stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, according to the report.
Judson Jones contributed reporting.