Aug 12, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Extreme heat, deadly wildfires scorch U.S., Europe, Africa

Weather map of Europe showing hot temperatures represented in red.
Computer model projection of tempreature departures from average on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2021. (TropicalTidbits.com)

Extreme heat and wildfires are plaguing the U.S. and Europe, along with northern Africa. Thursday marks the peak of the latest heat wave in the Mid-Atlantic states, with Washington, D.C. likely to reach or eclipse 100°F Thursday, with a heat index closer to 105 or 110°F.

Why it matters: Heat waves and wildfires are two clear manifestations of the growing risks and impacts of global warming, a conclusion reinforced by the authoritative U.N. IPCC's report published Monday.

Details: The Pacific Northwest will see its second outbreak of scorching heat and dry weather this summer. Although temperatures won't approach the all-time records of late June into early July, when Portland, Ore., hit 116°F, and as many as 600 people died from heat-related illness, they will be up to 20°F above average for this time of year.

  • In Portland, the forecast high on Thursday is 99°F followed by 100°F on Friday.
  • Extreme heat will also affect the fire zones in northern California, where the Dixie Fire, California's second-largest on record, continues to rage. That blaze has destroyed at least 1,000 structures, including at least 500 homes.
  • Heat and drought are also leading to dangerous, large fires in Montana, among other states, and British Columbia.
  • Heat warnings are in effect for the urban corridor from Philadelphia to Boston, with heat indices likely to reach 110°F in New York City Thursday.

The big picture: The heat in the U.S. pales in comparison to what is taking place in Europe.

  • Sicily may have set an all-time continental record on Wednesday, when the community of Siracusa hit 48.8°C, or 119.8°F.
  • Deadly, widespread wildfires have been burning in Turkey, Greece, and Algeria, and concerns are growing for fires to break out in Spain and Portugal through this weekend as the furnace-like heat shifts toward the Iberian peninsula.
  • Temperature records have also fallen in Tunisia, with Kairouan recording a reading of 112.5°F on Wednesday, which if verified would be a national record for any month, according to diligent record temperature tracker Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist with Meteo France.
  • Climate studies have consistently shown that the Mediterranean is likely to become hotter and drier as human-caused warming continues, as a region of sinking air north of the equator shifts north.
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