Pacific Northwest heatwave virtually impossible without climate change

The last week of June saw shocking temperatures in Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia. Differentiating a forecast in Canada from a forecast in Phoenix is usually a breeze, but not in June. All-time high-temperature records—not just daily records—were smashed across the region. Portland International Airport broke its all-time record of 41.7°C (107°F) by a whopping 5°C (9°F). The small town of Lytton set a new record high for the entire country of Canada at 49.6°C (121.3°F) on June 29. In the days that followed, most of the town burned in a wildfire…

As with other extreme weather events, the World Weather Attribution team has generated a rapid analysis of this heat wave in the context of climate change…The goal is to fit a mathematical relationship that tells you how unusual an event was—it can produce figures like 1-in-10 or 1-in-50 odds in any given year, for example. But with events this extreme, the statistics are often challenging, as this heat wave went far beyond anything in the instrumental record. As near as they could estimate, the researchers put this heat wave at a 1-in-1,000 probability—the kind of thing that ought to happen roughly once in a thousand years.

Comparing this to the world before human-caused climate change requires adding in model simulations. As usual, the team compared historical temperatures in the area to a large database of models, tossing the simulations that fit the historical trend poorly. Statistics from simulations of climate in the late 1800s can then be combined with the historical data to see how rare this event would have been in the past.

Remember, it’s taken our dumbass species two centuries to screw things up this bad. Just because quantitative events have accumulated sufficiently to produce qualitative change…the disasters we’re sliding into…doesn’t mean they were caused by short-term phenomena. Nor will there be much of a chance for short-term solutions.

2 thoughts on “Pacific Northwest heatwave virtually impossible without climate change

  1. p/s says:

    Extreme climate change has arrived in America https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-america/
    A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark.
    — Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.
    — Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country, but Rhode Island is the first state in the Lower 48 whose average temperature rise has eclipsed 2 degrees Celsius. Other parts of the Northeast — New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts — trail close behind.
    “Five takeaways from The Post’s analysis of warming climates in the United States” https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/08/13/five-takeaways-posts-analysis-warming-climates-united-states/

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