Tuesday Reads: Heatwave! And Other NewsPosted: June 29, 2021
We’re having another heatwave here in the Boston area–four days of 90 degrees or more–with a high temperature today of 99 degrees. Thunderstorms are expected to break the heat tomorrow night, with temperatures in the 80s on Thursday. But that is nothing compared to what is happening in the Pacific Northwest. I talked to my sister in Portland, OR, yesterday, and she said the temperature was supposed to hit 115 degrees! She said her garden is dying even though she is soaking her plants every morning.
The New York Times: How Weird Is the Heat in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver? Off the Charts.
Heat waves and the “heat domes” that can cause them aren’t rare, but the recent weather that’s been smothering the Pacific Northwest has little precedent in at least four decades of record-keeping….
The heat has been not only widespread, but also intense, in some places surpassing previous records by double digits.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, this past weekend’s temperatures were far above norms for this time of year, and a town in British Columbia reached nearly 116 degrees, the highest recorded temperature for any place in Canada in its history. In Seattle, there have been only two other days in the last 50 years with temperatures in the triple digits: in 2009 and 1994.
The heat has resulted from a wide and deep mass of high-pressure air that, because of a wavy jet stream, parked itself over much of the region. Also known as a heat dome, such an enormous high-pressure zone acts like a lid on a pot, trapping heat so that it accumulates. And with the West beset by drought, there’s been plenty of heat to trap.
In Seattle, Portland and other areas west of the Cascades, hot air blowing from the east was further warmed as it descended the mountains, raising temperatures even more.
Climate is naturally variable, so periods of high heat are to be expected. But in this episode scientists see the fingerprints of climate change, brought on by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Karin Bumbaco, Washington’s assistant state climatologist, said that any definitive climate-change link could be demonstrated only by a type of analysis called an attribution study. “But it’s a safe assumption, in my view, to blame increasing greenhouse gases for at least some portion of this event,” she said.
On a global average, the world has warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. “When you have that warmer baseline, when you do get these extreme events it’s just going to get that much warmer,” she said.
This heat wave is also unusual because it occurred earlier than most. Those two previous triple-digits days in Seattle, for example, happened in late July, about 30 days later.
This one occurred just a few days after the summer solstice, which may have contributed to the extreme conditions. “The days are longer, and we’re not getting that cool-off at night,” she said.
Read more details at the NYT, with maps and charts.
The Washington Post: The Pacific Northwest heat wave is shocking but shouldn’t be a surprise.
More than three decades ago, in his seminal study predicting the course of human-caused climate change, NASA scientist Jim Hansen wrote that “temperature changes within several decades will become large enough to have major effects on the quality of life for mankind in many regions.”
Hansen used the analogy of “loaded dice” to describe how climate change would increase the likelihood of extremely hot weather in a given year while decreasing the chance of unusually cold weather.
Even before that, in 1979, the National Research Council published a study led by the late meteorologist Jule Charney that predicted serious global warming would evolve. “It appears that the warming will eventually occur, and the associated regional climatic changes so important to the assessment of socioeconomic consequences may well be significant,” the report said.
Since those prescient projections 30-to-40-plus years ago, heat waves all over the world have intensified. Heat domes, the sprawling zones of high pressure at high altitudes that essentially bake the air underneath them, have strengthened.
During the European heat wave in 2003, blamed for 70,000 deaths, the average temperature was higher than any year since at least 1851. A study published in 2004 found human influence “at least doubled the risk” of a heat wave of that magnitude.
By 2010, when a historically intense heat wave killed 50,000 people in Russia, the risk of such an event was tripled due to climate change, according to a study published in 2012.
In 2016, a report from the National Academies of Sciences concluded that of the connections between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events, heat waves had among the most straightforward ties.
See also this excellent piece at Axios that summarizes a great deal of information about the heat wave. It’s much longer and more detailed than the usual Axios post: Pacific Northwest heat wave reaches astonishing peak on Monday.
In other news, Axios analyzed traffic at “partisan” news sites and discovered big drops in clicks since Trump was ejected from the White House: Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media.
In the months since former President Donald Trump left office, media companies’ readership numbers are plunging — and publishers that rely on partisan, ideological warfare have taken an especially big hit.
Why it matters: Outlets most dependent on controversy to stir up resentments have struggled to find a foothold in the Biden era, according to an Axios analysis of publishers’ readership and engagement trends.
By the numbers: Web traffic, social media engagement and app user sessions suggest that while the entire news industry is experiencing a slump, right-wing outlets are seeing some of the biggest plunges.
- A group of far-right outlets, including Newsmax and The Federalist, saw aggregate traffic drop 44% from February through May compared to the previous six months, according to Comscore data.
- Lefty outlets including Mother Jones and Raw Story saw a 27% drop.
- Mainstream publishers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters dropped 18%.
App visits tell a similar story. Both right-leaning (including Fox News, Daily Caller) and left-leaning (including Buzzfeed News, The Atlantic) saw considerable average drops in app user sessions over this time period at 31% and 26%, respectively, according to Apptopia data.
- Data from Sensor Tower shows that downloads of fringe-right social networking apps like MeWe, Rumble, Parler and CloutHub have also plummeted.
Engagement on social media has taken the biggest dive, according to data from NewsWhip.
- Left-leaning and right-leaning publishers have seen social interactions on stories drop by more than 50%, while mainstream publishers have experienced a slightly more modest drop of 42%.
The big picture: Opposition media traditionally relies on traffic booms when a new party takes office, but right-wing outlets have seen some of the most precipitous declines in readership since a Democratic president took office.
Political news sites would get a big upsurge in hits if the Trump Organization is indicted in New York this week. The Washington Post: Trump attorneys meet with New York prosecutors to argue that his company should not be criminally charged over its business practices, By David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Shayna Jacobs.