Seattle sets heat record amid sweltering PNW temperatures

For a second consecutive summer, a major heatwave is cooking the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle set a new temperature record for July 26 on Tuesday with the thermometer hitting 94 degrees around 5 p.m. at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Temperatures in Portland this week have been even hotter, while Vancouver has also experienced abnormally hot weather.

The heatwave, which has resulted in days of excessive heat warnings from the National Weather Service for both major northwest cities, comes after the region experienced one of its wettest and coldest springs in recent memory.

Seattle and Portland have both been known for their pleasant, temperate summers, but the intensification of climate change has meant the region has increasingly faced dangerous heatwaves. Last year, a late June heat dome in the northwest that saw temperatures climb well into triple digits claimed the lives of some 800 people in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

The current heatwave is not nearly as severe as the one last year, but it still poses a serious risk to vulnerable residents in a region that lacks much of the infrastructure necessary to deal with extreme heat. Both Seattle and Portland opened cooling shelters yesterday and plan to keep them open for the next several days, with Portland’s public transportation agency announcing that it will not turn away riders seeking to reach cooling centers who cannot pay their fare.

With temperatures expected to stay elevated through Saturday, public health officials have warned that the dangerous effects of extreme heat can be cumulative over a number of days and that the region’s air quality will also suffer as a result of increased smog.

“We’re not used to this kind of heat,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kirby Cook told the Seattle Times. “When you have day after day of heat it can add up; it’s significant.”

Parts of Washington and Oregon have remained cool, particulary close to the Pacific Ocean. The Washington Coast town of Long Beach has a forecasted high temperature of just 67 degrees on Wednesday, while the popular Oregon Coast town of Cannon Beach has a projected high of 66.

The northwest is not, by any means, the only part of the country that has experienced extreme heat in recent weeks. The northeast recently suffered through a major heatwave of its own, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees in cities like Newark and Boston.

Texas and parts of the southwest have also experienced abnormal heat in recent months. In total, millions of Americans have been left contending with excessive heat warnings throughout the summer.

It’s likely a preview of what is to come. Absent major interventions to stop and reverse global warming, US summers are set to continue getting hotter and hotter in future years.

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