Lytton is a small village in Canada. 260 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, like many places in the area, was founded during the gold rush in the mid-19th century, and is surrounded by mountains in the Fraser River Valley. Not 300 people live here.
Despite this, the community has now achieved worldwide fame, which is really not very commendable. No one would have expected this part of Canada, already known for its cold temperatures, to someday be hotter than the desert city of Dubai. 49.5 degrees were measured on Tuesday – a new record for all of Canada. Rises have already been reported in the previous two days.
Even for a meteorologist, that’s almost unbelievable, says Jeff Berardelli on CBS’s morning show. He explains “crazy weather” with a strong “atmospheric occlusion pattern” in which heat builds up over a larger area. “This heat is simply not overstated,” says Armel Castellane, a meteorologist at Environment Canada.
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In fact, the department has issued warnings of a “continuous, dangerous and historic heat wave” across several counties that will continue at least this week. The northwestern United States is also affected. Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have recorded the highest temperatures since records began there in 1940.
65 dead in Vancouver alone
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that people in the area are unaccustomed to such heat waves. The average maximum daily temperature in the village of Lytton, for example, is 24.3 degrees in July. Unlike the southern or southwestern United States, not all buildings in the North and Canada are air-conditioned. Therefore, in many places, people are turning to underground garages or in their air-conditioned cars. The elderly, children and the homeless are of particular concern.
Castellan talks about a “fatal event” because emergency services have already reported a significant increase in deaths. Within four days, 233 deaths were already reported in British Columba, and the average was 130 otherwise.
In Vancouver alone, there have been 65 sudden deaths attributed to severe weather. In city parks, lawn sprinklers work non-stop – not only to water green spaces, but also to give people the opportunity to relax.
“We are in the middle of British Columbia’s hottest week ever,” Territory Premier John Horgan said. He called for a search for people who might be in danger. Ambulance services keep being called because people are collapsing from heat stroke. The situation is exacerbated in some places by wildfires that deteriorate air quality.
As Florian Imperie, a climate analyst at the German Weather Service, sees there is a huge danger to nature and humans stemming from these heat waves. “We are dealing here with a strong high pressure effect, plus there is currently the highest possible solar radiation and a lack of precipitation,” he told Tagesspiegel.
These are the standing waves of the jet stream, which is called the Omega weather condition. “Such weather can last for days or even weeks.” It would then be a problem for the elderly in particular, but agriculture also naturally suffers from such conditions.
Imbery compares the situation to the summer of 2018 in Germany, when there was always an Omega case between April and September. “At that time, an above-average number of people died here in the summer as well,” he says. Vancouver, the largest city in the province of British Columbia, is geographically approximately on the same level as Frankfurt am Main.
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The situation in Canada is currently more dramatic than in Germany. The heat bell hangs over the entire prairie, even in the famous Jasper National Park it is extremely hot with temperatures just below 40 degrees. According to meteorologists, a weather phenomenon that maintains such hot air in the region for a long time occurs very rarely – only once every few thousand years, according to the Washington Post. That is why there is a heated debate in social networks about whether the link to the climate crisis should be drawn.
Biden addresses climate skeptics
Ironically, US President Joe Biden commented on the 46°C debate in Portland and addressed skeptics directly. “Don’t worry, there’s no global warming,” he explains smugly. “This does not exist. This is the fruit of our imagination.”
For experts, it is clear anyway. “It’s hard to attribute a single heat wave to climate change,” says scientist Florian Embyri. “But because of man-made climate change, heat waves of this kind are becoming exponentially more likely, especially in terms of intensity.” Or, as Canadian meteorologist Jeff Berardelli puts it: “Climate change makes the impossible not only possible, but also possible.”