The U.S. hasn’t seen anything quite like this. Over the weekend, temperatures soared to new triple-digit heights across the American West. The immediate cause was a “heat dome,” a mass of high-pressure air trapping heat beneath it, one far stronger and larger than normal.
But what we saw this weekend is what climate scientists have been predicting for decades. And it’s a taste of what’s to come. “It’s surreal to see your models become real life,” Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, says in the Guardian.
Records fell across the region. On June 17, California’s capital of Sacramento hit 110°F (43°C), smashing the last record of 102°F set in 1976. Similar all-time highs fell in Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, and other cities thousands of miles apart. In Death Valley National Park, where temperatures soared to 128°F, just one degree off the record, nighttime temperatures stayed above 111°F (44°C) well past midnight, among the hottest nights ever recorded in North America.
What climate models predicted is coming true. Scientists forecast global warming would fuel higher temperatures, falling humidity, dwindling snowpack, and intensifying drought. So far, this is coming to pass, despite some uncertainty about how this will play out in the coming century. [Continue reading…]