In February, Caleb Coder helped establish an emergency shelter in Portland, USA, with the goal of providing a shelter during a brutal winter storm.
Five months later, the same Sunrise Center building was used for the exact opposite reason: as a safe haven from a devastating and record-breaking heat wave, this week paralyzed not only Oregon but also most of the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
“People really climbed to the sunrise center because it was too hot. They vomited, burned and became dehydrated,” said Coder, whose Cultivate Initiatives support vulnerable groups in the city.
“Because we have water stations, sprayers and shower carts, hundreds of people passed by”, and the temperature reached 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Fahrenheit). “If there is no sunrise…”, he fell off. “This is life-saving.”
In a typical temperate region, unprecedented heat waves have claimed hundreds of lives in British Columbia and dozens of lives in Oregon and neighboring Washington State. This is an increasing number of extreme weather events worldwide. The latest together.
Australia, California, and Siberia have all recently experienced deadly wildfires caused by extreme heat. In Death Valley, California, it reached a frightening 53.2C (127.7F) last month, setting a record high in June.
The increase in the frequency of such weather events raises serious questions, including whether humans are prepared for the consequences of global warming and whether society can actually readjust to a warmer planet.
The United States, in particular, has suffered a brutal combination of heat waves, droughts and wildfires in recent years, which has put tremendous pressure on its infrastructure and attracted President Joe Biden’s promise of action.
In Canada, British Columbia experienced record temperatures, with temperatures reaching 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in Leiden on Tuesday-the day before the residents were evacuated due to wildfires that destroyed the town.
Dr. Jennifer Wiens, the chief health officer of the three-county area in Oregon, said: “There is a consensus that this is some kind of new normal.” In addition to this week’s heat wave, she also mentioned the “snow disaster” in February and the severe pollution last year. Wildfires in the city air.
“Given the intensity, frequency, and sense of urgency that we have faced every few months in the past year, how will we build our own structure in our response?”
The high temperatures in the United States and Canada this week were caused by a high pressure zone called the “thermal dome.” These conditions occur when jets (a fast-moving belt of air in the atmosphere) form a pattern of large waves that lock the dome in place.
Scientists are studying whether climate change will cause the abnormal behavior of rapids. Global warming has pushed up the average temperature of the earth, which is now about 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than in 1850. Although heat waves are not new, they have become more extreme due to this broader warming trend.
In the Northwestern United States, the impact of this week is unforgivable. According to officials, the heat wave has claimed approximately 80 lives in Oregon and at least 20 lives in Washington. A number that may climb in the next few days. In Canada, the death toll is believed to be in the hundreds.
The weather event exposed the vulnerabilities of critical urban infrastructure and local business operations. Tram service in Portland had to be suspended for several days this week. The cable starts to melt In the heat.
In Washington, roads began to crack, and Ciarrah Piller, 18, said that the refrigerator in the Subway sandwich chain where she worked just stopped working because of the high temperature. “We had to throw everything away and shut it down early, which is crazy.”
As temperatures soar, much of the West Coast of the United States is already preparing for another severe wildfire season. Colorado State University climate research scientist Brad Udal said that about half of the land burned by wildfires in the western United States in recent years is caused by rising temperatures caused by climate change.
The high temperature has also exacerbated the 20-year-long “extraordinary drought” and brought an increasingly serious water crisis to the region. In addition to causing more evaporation from the reservoir, rising temperatures also dry out the ground and increase the amount of water absorbed by plants, thereby reducing runoff.
“What we are seeing in the western United States is long-term warming and dryness,” Udall said. Since 2000, the increase in temperature has caused about half of the decline in the flow of the Colorado River.
As an important source of water for residents and farmers in California, Arizona, and Nevada, the river’s flow has fallen by one-fifth since the beginning of this century. “Some agricultural users cannot get enough water. This is a very cruel reality,” Udall said.
Increasingly common interference has caused many American cities and industries to think about whether and how they will respond to the inevitable weather events in the future.
“How will we transform our built environment to live in a hotter world?” said Christie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington, who studies the impact of climate change on human health. She added that the everyday systems we depend on need to be “designed to operate in a hotter environment.”
Ebi pointed out that most of the efforts to address climate change in the Pacific Northwest have focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than adapting to the changing climate — the latter is urgently needed.
She added that this shift may mean an increase in demand for building materials and methods that can withstand extreme conditions, as well as air conditioning—until now, this has been an unnecessary luxury in her corner of the United States.
However, air conditioners are energy-intensive users that contribute to global warming. In Portland this week, such a unit is impossible to buy.
“You can’t find air conditioners in the store, they are all sold,” said the taxi driver Shamsura Sharafi, who continued to work during the heat wave because his car-unlike his home-had air conditioning.
Out of fear of another heat wave, he described the conditions that humans might have to get used to enduring: “It’s like someone throwing fire into your face.”
Additional report by Leslie Hook in London