The most severe heat waves in the US Pacific Northwest since deadly 2021 records were set, and drought across nearly half the country, served as the backdrop for the historic $369 billion bill dollars to tackle energy security and climate change this week.
The increased dryness of the soil has helped fuel the heat, as the air heats up faster without soil moisture evaporating and cooling the atmosphere. That could have the effect of raising temperatures up to 6.5C (20F) above average, said AccuWeather, the US commercial weather service.
While temperatures in parts of Oregon and Washington states fell short of all-time records set during the late June 2021 heat wave, he said, the heat of the last week had greater resistance.
Portland’s National Weather Service predicted the scorching temperatures would persist through the weekend and the area should break records for the duration of heat waves.
Portland hit a new daily high of 38.9C at the start of the week and was on track to match its longest six-day streak in a row of 35C (95F) or higher, with weather warnings excessive for the Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge areas. from Oregon. Seattle also reported a new daily high of 94°F (34.4°C) this week.
NASA’s Earth Observatory reported that by the end of June, nearly half of the United States was in “moderate to extreme drought,” based on its analyzes of soil conditions and the use of mapping tools.
California had its driest January, February and March on record in 2022, the agency said, as nearly the entire state fell into “severe to extreme drought.”
Droughts are complex events that cannot always be attributed directly to climate change, according to a recent post by scientists specializing in the field of meteorological attribution.
In some areas, however, changing rainfall patterns, such as short bursts of very heavy rains, could contribute to “worsening droughts”, the study concluded.
“The footprint of climate change on increased drought has been observed in several drought-prone regions of the world,” he said. “This is largely due to amplified temperatures causing evaporation and melting of the snowpack, reducing the contribution of meltwater to river flows.”
Newly released data from NASA’s Landsat program from 2000 and 2022 shows the dramatic effects of drought that spread across the southwestern United States and caused water levels to drop to just 27% of capacity . Depleted water levels have exposed human remains in recent months.
Images of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, critical reservoirs on the Colorado River feeding the Hoover Dam, provide “a stark illustration of climate change and a long-term drought that could be the worst in the western United States- United for 12 centuries”, NASA wrote.
Additional reporting by Camilla Hodgson
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