Portland, Oregon rose to 116 degrees Celsius on Monday, warmer than ever in cities like Dallas, New Orleans and downtown Los Angeles. In fact, when it comes to major cities in the United States, only Phoenix and Las Vegas were hotter.
Across the country, a parallel heatwave was afoot, with predictions that Boston would hit 100 degrees on Tuesday.
The culprit? Distortions in the jet stream lead to increased mountain ranges in the north on both sides of the country, which leads to unfamiliar heat zones. As of Tuesday, 12 million Americans were under heat surveillance and warnings in most of the west, and 44 million in the northeast were under heat alarms that stretched from Delaware to Maine.
Monday was an example of a summer scorcher test book pumping heat across the Pacific Northwest and delivering an electricity supplier in Spokane, Washington, to warn people that another turnaround is imminent given strong energy demand. More than 35 cities have set or set records, with many areas shooting unprecedented 30 to 40 degrees above average. The Seattle record was broken by 5 degrees to hit 108, and the Portland record high was also broken, rising to 116 degrees, 8 degrees higher than the old record.
The heat was so intense it peeled the wires from the Portland street lights and dented the sidewalk. And the heat was so persistent that Seattle set a new record: three-digit temperatures for the first time on three consecutive days.
The historic heat has even threatened several state and national records. The record high of 119 for Oregon and the record high of 118 in Washington almost reached what it was when Salem, Oregon, 117 and Dallesport, Washington hit 118 on Monday.
Most notably, Lytton, British Columbia recorded a high temperature of 118 degrees, setting a new national record for Canada and breaking the old record by 5 degrees. This temperature exceeded the highest level of 117 in Las Vegas.
To put this extreme heat in perspective, the hottest temperatures in traditionally hot cities are still cooler than these new records for Portland and Seattle. Miami’s record high is just 100 and Atlanta just 106.
On Tuesday the cities in northwest Seattle; Portland; Boise, Idaho; Billings, Montana; and Reno, Nevada are expected to continue to have triple-digit temperatures, and the humidity in the Northwest Pacific will make those temperatures feel like the 110s.
In the Pacific Northwest, temperatures will start to cool off Tuesday and Wednesday near the coast, but it will remain scorching hot in the interior, as the cooling breeze off the Pacific Ocean won’t reach sufficiently far inland. Tuesday will be the first in three days that the forecast high is below 100 for Portland and Seattle, but temperatures will remain in the 90s, 10 to 15 degrees above average. Glasgow and Helena, Montana, Boise and Spokane, Washington, can expect triple digits through the Fourth of July.
About 8,200 utility customers in parts of Spokane lost power on Monday, and Avista Utilities warned that there will be more rolling blackouts on Tuesday in the city of about 220,000 people, with the high temperature predicted at 110 degrees, which would be a record.
Avista had planned for much higher than normal demand but hit its limit quicker than anticipated because of the intense heat, Heather Rosentrater, the company’s senior vice president for energy delivery, said Monday.
Daily records could also be broken across New England as temperatures were expected to reach well over 100.
Heat warnings cover much of New Jersey, and extend over Philadelphia. New York City will likely see its hottest temperatures so far this year, and Philadelphia and Boston have already declared heat emergencies. This is truly rare heat; New York City averages just a few days a year with temperatures above 95 degrees.
Temperatures moderate slightly through the end of the workweek, returning to about average by the weekend.
Summers are getting hotter in the Pacific Northwest as a result of climate change, with most cities feeling 2.5 to 3 degrees hotter than they did in 1970. As carbon dioxide levels rise and climate change progresses, more extreme and more frequent heat waves can be expected for unprepared cities across the country.