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Clam shells remain on previously submerged rocks as worsening drought drops the water level in Meadview, Arizona. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The combination of extreme heat and drought that has scorched the Western United States and Canada over the past two weeks has killed hundreds of millions of mussels, clams and other marine animals, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: An estimated 1 billion small sea creatures died during the heat wave in the Salish Sea at the end of June, according to marine biologist Chris Harley, per the Washington Post.

  • The sea creatures' deaths coincide with the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest last week, which led to more than a hundred human deaths.
  • A study by an international team of climate researchers said the heat wave would have been "virtually impossible without human-caused climate change."

Driving the news: Mussels attach themselves to rocks and other surfaces, but they generally can't survive temperatures over 100 degrees for extended periods of time, CNN reports.

  • Ken Fong, head of the marine invertebrates stock assessment research program for Canada’s department of fisheries and oceans, called the incident a "perfect storm," per the Washington Post.
  • "A very low tide in the afternoon in the Strait of Georgia that happened to coincide with the hottest part of the day, exposing the sea animals to the worst of the extreme heat," the Post reports.

What they're saying: "It was a catastrophe over there," Harley told CNN. "There's a really extensive mussel bed that coats the shore and most of those animals had died."

  • "What worries me is that if you start getting heat waves like this, every 10 years instead of every 1,000 years or every five years, then it's you're getting hit too hard, too rapidly to actually ever recover," Harley said. "And then the ecosystem is going to just look very, very different."

Go deeper: Welcome to our hellscape summer

Go deeper

Future of megacities "hang in the balance" as diplomats prepare for COP26

Still images from an interactive slider comparing Washington Nationals Stadium's future with steep emissions cuts with our current carbon path. Courtesy: Climate Central

Nations’ follow through — or lack thereof — on pledges made at the looming UN climate summit will help determine the long-term fate of tens of millions of people living in coastal megacities threatened by rising seas.

Why it matters: The delayed response of the climate system, with seas that warm and expand slowly and ice sheets that can take centuries to reach equilibrium — long after air temperatures have leveled off, means the stakes of COP26, and government decisions in coming years, are extraordinarily high.

Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker