Canada has recorded its highest ever temperature as the country’s west and the US Pacific north-west bake in an unprecedented heatwave.
Lytton in British Columbia soared to 46.6 degrees Celsius on Sunday, breaking an 84-year-old record, officials said.
A “heat dome” – static high pressure acting like a lid on a cooking pot – is the cause and the US and Canada are both warning that “dangerous” heat levels could persist all this week.
BBC meteorologists say that “heat dome” isn’t a strictly defined meteorological term but has become associated with describing large areas of high pressure, leading to clear skies and roasting hot sunny days.
This heat dome is huge, stretching thousands of kilometres from California right up to Canada’s Arctic territories and inland through Idaho.
Sales of air-conditioners and fans have surged, and cooling shelters have sprung up. Some bars, restaurants, and even swimming pools were closed for being too hot for safety.
British Columbia’s power providers said they are racing to keep up with the spike in demand for electricity to keep air-conditioners running.
More than 40 towns in British Columbia set new records, surging past the previous Canadian record set in Saskatchewan back in July 1937 at a balmy 45 degrees.
Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CTV: “I like to break records, but this is like shattering and pulverising them. It’s warmer in parts of western Canada than in Dubai.”
He said there was a chance of topping 47 degrees in the early part of the week. He forecast a “prolonged, dangerous, and historic heatwave will persist through this week”, with temperatures 10-15 degrees above normal, at near 40 degrees in many places.
The US Pacific north-west has also been breaking records, particularly in parts of Washington and Oregon states.
Seattle and Portland, often the target of jokes about rainy climates, could be among those setting their hottest temperatures. Both have already surpassed 40 degrees.
Oregon eased Covid attendance restrictions to open up swimming pools and air-conditioned areas like shopping centres.
Fruit growers have been rushing to pick crops, fearing the heat could shrivel cherries and other fruit. Pickers have been starting at dawn and stopping at lunchtime in the unbearable temperatures.
The US track and field Tokyo Olympics qualifying trials had to be halted in Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday, as the crowd was told to leave the stadium for safety reasons.
Some Covid vaccination centres also closed because of the heat.
The US National Weather Service called the heatwave conditions “historic” and said they would persist through the week, “with numerous daily, monthly and even all-time records likely to be set”.