A few days ago, Larry O’Neill, the lead climatologist for the state of Oregon, looked at the forecast for this week and thought the numbers must be wrong. “The predictions seemed completely outlandish,” he told NBC News. “They were so crazy insane that professional forecasters and people like myself thought something must be wrong with the models.”
There was nothing wrong with the models. There was something wrong with people’s expectations for what is “normal” weather in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year. “We see evidence of climate change in the data already, but in the Pacific Northwest, we thought maybe by the middle of the century is when we would start to see really substantial and impactful events,” O’Neill said. “But we’re seeing those now.”
Nicholas Bond, a research scientist at the University of Washington and head climatologist for the state of Washington, told NBC the intensity of the heat, particularly in a region of the country known for its mild conditions, has been shocking. “The magnitude by which records are being broken — not by a degree or so but by 5 degrees and in some cases more — is really stunning. I didn’t really expect anything like this until further into the future.”
Average temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have warmed by roughly 1.3 degrees since 1895, according to the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, and most cities in the region feel more than 2 degrees warmer in the summer than they did in 1970. “Along with that warming, we’ve seen an increase in extreme heat events, and these events are becoming more frequent, more intense and longer in duration. The question is no longer if climate change caused a specific heat event, but by how much,” said Meade Krosby, a senior scientist with the Climate Impacts Group.
Experts said it’s disconcerting to see such a crippling heat wave this early in the summer — just a few days after the summer solstice — and added that the implications could be dire for this year’s wildfire season. O’Neill said he hopes the recent events act as a wake-up call about the immediate impacts of global warming. “All of this adds to the danger and risk that we face. Climate change absolutely loads the dice towards more extreme.
The Real Danger Is Clueless Politicians
It was only 6 years ago that James Inhofe, the unreconstructed jackass from Oklahoma, brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate to “prove” that climate change wasn’t real. It is no coincidence that Oklahoma is a playground for oil and gas companies. Among its other claims to fame, it spawned the hateful Scott Pruitt, the trained monkey of the fossil fuel industry who later became head of the Environmental Protection Agency where he devoted every waking moment to protecting his sponsors and enablers.
In the US, the reactionaries are focused on driving wedges between us so that they continue to dominate the political landscape. Critical race theory, anti-abortion laws, voting rights restrictions, vaccination fears, and terror about transgender people are all smokescreens designed to keep voters from focusing on the climate shit show come down on their heads.
Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and former US secretary of state, dismissed warnings about an overheating planet with this incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement: “And as human beings as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don’t — the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.”
[As an editorial aside, I would like to say that billionaires like Tillerson will find it a whole lot easier to adapt than the majority of humans. Farmers who have tilled the soil for generations will not find it so easy to move hundreds or thousands of miles away to start over. Nor does it recognize the structural issues that will occur when Blacks from Detroit try to migrate to northern Idaho or Latinos from Las Cruces wander en masse into Indiana. See the comment by Super390 in this recent article.
There was a fellow roaming around the Middle East 2021 years ago who believed that becoming a truly evolved society put a premium on seeing to the needs of the least among us. A religion was created to celebrate his teachings but over the past two millennia, the trappings of religiosity — ridiculous hats and enormous crosses of gold, have survived but the teachings have been cast aside as an inconvenient and unnecessary impediment to the accumulation of wealth.
How likely is it that people who think religion is all about them will lift a finger to avoid a climate cataclysm? If you said, “None,” go the head of the class. Tillerson’s statement is fatuous in the extreme and rips the camouflage off the lie that is the basis of all conservative 1950’s style “Father Knows Best” ideology.]
Hotter Is The New Normal
Climate change is also making episodes of extreme heat more frequent, longer, and more intense, Erica Fleishman, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University, tells the New York Times. “We can say extreme weather is happening more as climate changes, and will continue to happen more. This heat wave is extraordinary, but this in a sense is not likely to be the last.”
Heat waves eventually end, and for the coastal cities what’s called a “marine push,” when cooler air blows in from the Pacific, is already moderating temperatures. For inland areas, however, the high heat will remain. Eastern Washington might exceed 118 degrees on this week, which would set a record for the state, according to Karin Bumbaco, assistant state climatologist for Washington state.
Temperatures are still expected to be quite high for the next two or three weeks, she said — not 30 or 40 degrees higher than normal, but 10 to 15. “That might actually have more implications for our agriculture and potential wildfires,” she said. The heat wave won’t be as extreme, she said, “but it’s going to last longer.”
That is not good news for farmers in eastern Washington. A reader named Patrick, who lives in Spokane, left this comment on the New York Times story: “You can call it anything you like, but tomato’s are cooking on the vine & bursting! I would kind of say that is some really weird weather.”
Note: The image above was created by KNMI Climate Explorer, a part of the World Meteorological Organization and was featured in the New York Times story. For some odd reason, NBC News used a similar graphic that cut off at the Canadian border, leaving readers with the mistaken impression that Canada was not experiencing the effects of the heat dome. Shame on NBC News for such outrageously irresponsible journalism.