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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 18, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Climate change could hit people of color especially hard

Data: EPA; Note: Relative effects at 2°C warming above 1986-2005 average and 50 centimeters of sea level rise;  Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A growing environmental threat to communities of color — particularly Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans — is the damage some are likely to suffer because of climate change in the coming years.

The big picture: This visual is based on an EPA analysis released this month that explores how warming and rising seas could make life especially miserable for people of color based on where they currently live in the lower 48 states.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Expand chart
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.