To be fair, this is only a Hothouse Earth preview. Geologist have long reserved the terms “Hothouse Earth” for those periods in Earth’s history when there were essentially no ice caps, just as they’ve used the term “Snowball Earth” for those periods where there was almost nothing except ice cap. So this isn’t really a hothouse … it’s just the waiting room. But even as a offering of Coming Attractions, this past week didn’t exactly sell any tickets.
Canadian Town hits 121° F, then hits 1,472° F
As the heat dome settled in over the Northwest, Seattle and Portland baked under temperatures that passed previous all time highs by as much as 8° F. But just across the border, the town of Lytton, British Columbia had it even harder. On July 1, the small town—population 1,000—recorded a temperature of 121.2° F (49.6° C). It wasn’t just a record high for Lytton, it was the first time in history that any location in Canada had recorded a temperature above 120°F.
But that turned out to be nothing. Because the very next day, Lytton hit over 1,400°F … because it burned in a forest fire that spread across thousands of acres in the bone dry heat. That fire was just one of 200 fires that are still burning British Columbia as of July 9.
Mussels and cockles alive … alive? No.
While Lytton was being roasted, so were Northwestern sea shores. The unprecedented and prolonged heat in the region has brought on a phenomenon that’s both sad and odorous — miles of seashore on which mussels, oysters, clams, barnacles, and other marine animals in the sand or fastened to the rocks along the shore have simply been cooked in place.
Along the gorgeous shores of the Salish Sea (which the Daily Kos community is lucky enough to see in frequent images from member OceanDiver) estimates are that a billion animals may have died. This isn’t just an ecological tragedy, which could have an expanding effect on the entire ecosystem of the area, but an economic tragedy for a shell fishing industry that had been trying to tiptoe back into a place where it was both sustainable and profitable.
How to think of the climate crisis
Severe thunderstorms are a regular feature of summer in the Midwest and South, and this week was no exception. But it was exceptional. On Friday evening, as storms bloomed along a band that nearly made a line across the nation, the Midwest in particular came in for a pounding. Starting in Kansas and driving east through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, storms carried large hail and winds in excess of 70 mph even when they were not spawning tornados. It may not be quite the storm that hit last year with 100 mph winds, which would have been enough to make it a class 2 hurricane, but then, that storm didn’t hit until August. So…
The winds that hit St. Louis on Saturday morning were strong enough to rip the 140-year-old steeple from a local cathedral, and leave hundreds of thousands without power. And, as those winds were roaring through the area, they were matched by near-record downpours that brought on flash flooding. At around 1:30 AM, a mother driving a car with three children down Interstate 70 encountered a 2’ wall of water surging up the six lane highway. She attempted to turn and flee up an onramp, only to find the car lifted off the road and washed into a culvert. As she and her children escaped from the flooding car, a 12-year-old girl was swept away and carried into a storm drain. A search is ongoing at this time.
What’s the climate crisis? It’s a not just heat waves and rising seas, it’s a flash flood so powerful it lifts a family car off an interstate highway and sweeps a 12-year-old girl into a storm drain.
Summer is just beginning
And of course it’s not over. It doesn’t get over. It only gets worse. Following a week of record heat, the Western U.S. is now facing … more heat. Temperatures in some areas are so hot at night that it’s impossible for people to cool off even in total darkness. There are temperatures so severe that heat stress can be almost instantaneous, with heat stroke not far behind. Living with these temperatures takes preparation and planning. It also takes acclimatization—which is what does not happen when people suddenly find their air conditioners conking out under a heat-induced blackout.
While the previous heat dome brought the greatest threat in the Northwest, this time its the Southwest that will take the real brunt of the heat. Las Vegas is likely to see its all time high temperature of 117°F either matched or exceeded over each of the next three days. Parts of California are also likely to see previous all time highs for any date fall away. The fact that the temperatures will be so high during the day, and will not be dropping below the 90s at night, means that the heat risk involved is severe. Everyone, regardless of age and fitness, is endangered by heat at this level.
There is no escaping Climate change
The Marshall Islands are often casually mentioned as a U.S. territory, like Puerto Rico or Guam, but it’s a lot more complicated that that. Take a deep breath and … The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was a former U.N. territory which was administered by the United States, consisting mostly of islands that fell under U.S. control during World War II. In 1979, that Trust Territory recognized the independence of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Then that Trust Territory was shuttered in 1994, after dealing with other areas, and the Marshall Islands became a “sovereign state in free association with the United States.” All of which makes the rights of Marshallese when it comes to travel or immigration to the United States very confusing and the obligations of the United States to the Marshall Islands (which, as a reminder, we spent some time blowing up with hydrogen bombs) a good deal less robust than many people in both nations feel they should be.
And then there’s climate change. Because the Marshall Islands are a group of mostly smaller islands, they are extremely subject to the effects of climate change on every front — changing weather and rainfall patterns, increasing storms, and rising sea levels. As CNN reports, that last factor may still be invisible to many, but not to those whose homes are all too close to those rising waters. Eventually, many of them just got tired of being constantly under the threat of seeing their homes destroyed. Roughly 30,000 people have immigrated from the Marshall Islands to the U.S, over the last several decades — one of many climate-induced migrations.
Those Marshallese have settled primarily in Washington, Oregon, and California. So they escaped the effects of climate change in their islands, and have now arrived in the U.S., in states that are currently seeing their second life-threatening heat wave of the year, punching through all time high temperatures, and facing a drought with no end in sight.
Hopefully, none of them moved to Teviston, CA.