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Computer model projection showing the unusually strong heat dome over the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. (PivotalWeather).

A heat wave is bringing unprecedented high temperatures to the Pacific Northwest — a region of the country typically cooled by the ocean, rather than central air conditioning. The heat will begin Friday and last into early next week.

Why it matters: The heat wave will shatter monthly and all-time temperature records in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the records could break the old milestones by several degrees.

  • Such warmth can lead to heat-related illness and even death, particularly when overnight temperatures don't provide much relief. Officials across the affected region are announcing plans to open cooling centers to provide relief to residents.

The big picture: Heat waves like this are one of the clearest manifestations of human-caused global warming, with studies showing that climate change boosts the odds of their occurrence and heightens their severity.

  • Some recent studies, in fact, have shown that certain extreme heat events could not have occurred without an added boost from human-caused warming.

Driving the news: A highly unusual weather pattern is moving into place over the Pacific Northwest, with a record-strong high-pressure area — colloquially known as a "heat dome" — parked over the region. Such a heat dome, if it reaches the intensity computer models are projecting, would break records for this far north at any time of year.

  • This indicates to meteorologists that this weather pattern is beyond simply highly unusual, and could lead to unprecedented outcomes.
  • The heat will raise the risk of wildfires across multiple Western states.
  • National Weather Service forecasters in Spokane, Wash., warned of the compound impacts of this event, stating: "Unprecedented heat will not only threaten the health of residents in the Inland Northwest but will make our region increasingly vulnerable to wildfires and intensify the impacts our ongoing drought."

By the numbers:

  • Three states may see their all-time high temperatures threatened: Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
  • In Seattle, where the average high temperature this time of year is in the low-to-mid 70s, the National Weather Service (NWS) predicts a high of 102°F on Sunday, which would break the record for the city's hottest temperature during the month of June.
  • Seattle's all-time high temperature record is 103°F, and the city has only seen three 100-degree days in its history.
  • A blend of computer model data shows that Sea-Tac airport has a 98% chance of exceeding 95°F on Sunday, and an 80% chance of doing the same on Monday. These odds are up compared to Wednesday, according to the NWS.
  • Portland, Oregon, is forecast to reach low triple-digits on Saturday through at least Monday. The city is likely to break its June heat record, its record for most 100-degree days in June, and surpass its all-time high of 107°F, perhaps by a few degrees.
  • The heat will be most intense in inland areas of Washington and Oregon. There, temperatures are forecast to soar to between 100°F and 114°F on Saturday and Tuesday, and remain extremely hot through much of next week.
  • Spokane, Washington, is also predicted to break its all-time high temperature record by a few degrees.

Between the lines: One of the reasons why the Pacific Northwest will get so hot is that the heat dome will be parked to the north-northeast of the region for several days. Due to the clockwise flow of air around the high, this will produce multiple surges of air moving from high-to-lower elevation areas in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

  • As air sinks it gets compressed, increasing temperatures and getting drier — boosting temperatures further.

What we're watching: Any emerging trends in computer model data that keep the heat in place through all of next week.

The bottom line: This is no ordinary heat wave. It poses a serious risk to human health, will affect agricultural production, potentially lead to devastating wildfires, and will help redirect weather systems all across North America by forcing the jet stream aloft to take a significant detour.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on bold climate commitments

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on the innovative approaches climate leaders are undertaking to reshape standards for sustainability initiatives in 2022 and beyond, featuring White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp.

Gina McCarthy explained the Biden administration’s recent environmental priorities, the importance of mobilizing different communities to fight climate change, and how the White House is incentivizing private industries to reduce their emissions.   

  • On addressing extreme heat problems: "I think everybody’s beginning to understand as the President tours the sites of wildfires and flooding and other really big challenges like drought, there’s this silent killer for climate change that’s called excess heat, that really doesn’t get enough attention."
  • On cross-agency collaboration on climate change at a federal level: “It’s an exciting moment where people across the federal government are working together in ways they have never done before, not just to tackle wildfires and droughts and flooding and heat stress, but also to tackle the challenge of how we motivate our business sector and send them all the signals you would want us to send that shows that President Biden is committed to achieving net zero in 2050, and knows that this decade is a decisive decade.”

Fred Krupp highlighted how companies must be held accountable to pledges to reduce their emissions, how some corporations are breaking with lobby associations to become more vocal about climate change (and others are not), and how he believes debates surrounding the infrastructure bill will play out in the near future. 

  • On how corporate lobbying has fallen short: “Right now, we don’t see enough corporations lobbying on behalf of the climate sections of the reconciliation bill. This bill that’s pending in Congress is our once in a decade opportunity to get something done on climate.” 
  • On public support for the infrastructure bill: “I see an enormous amount of support in the American public for moving ahead with a sort of clean energy economy that are going to create tremendous numbers of jobs, clean the air, make people healthier.” 

Axios VP of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with GE’s Chief Sustainability Officer Roger Martella, who discussed how GE is following through on their ESG goals by investing in sustainable energy technologies. 

  • “We create some of the most technically complex and critical technologies the world needs, and we’re focused today on innovating these technologies on a path to decarbonization.” 

Thank you GE for sponsoring this event.

18 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.