Canada Breaks Heat Record For Second Straight Day and Mountains Are Melting

Canada is experiencing temperatures near 50 C and flood warnings as snow melts rapidly. And yes, it's likely caused by global warming.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
Canadian snow melt from glacier in mountain; vancouver residents cooling off at the beach during heat wave
File photo of snow melt in Lake Louise, Alberta, in 2016 (left) and Vancouver residents keeping cool during heat wave (right). Photos by George Rose/Getty Images and Trevor Hagan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A village in British Columbia, Canada, broke the country’s all-time record for extreme heat a second day in a row.

On Sunday, Lytton, British Columbia, hit a record-breaking 46.1 C, before reaching an even worse 47.5 C on Monday. Canada’s previous record was set more than 80 years ago when Saskatchewan reported 45 C in 1937.

Western Canada is currently in the throes of a severe heatwave, with heat warnings issued for all of B.C., Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan. Temperatures aren’t expected to cool off in B.C. until tomorrow, while Alberta and Saskatchewan are expected to stay hot until early next week. 

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The unusually high temperatures are so bad they’ve resulted in rapid snow melt in the mountains, increasing the risk of flooding in some areas of southern B.C. According to the B.C. River Forecast Centre, there are at least four flood watches as rivers, including the Upper Fraser River and  Upper Columbia River, continue to swell. On Saturday, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, just northeast of Vancouver, issued an ongoing evacuation order for the village of Pemberton as the nearby Lillooet River continues to run fast and high.

“The automated snow weather stations within the region are nearly depleting with daily snowmelt rates of 45 to 65mm snow water equivalent per day,” the centre said on Monday.

Canada isn’t alone in its struggle with unusually high temperatures. Several U.S. states are breaking their own records, too. Cities in Portland, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, California, and Arizona have hit record highs this month alone—Arizona is currently investigating 53 suspected heat-related deaths that took place the week of June 19.

Experts are often wary of attributing specific weather events to climate change, but a chorus of them is saying the record-breaking heat is the result of it, and there’s widespread agreement that the climate crisis will result in more frequent and consistent extreme weather events.

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David Phillips, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada, told the New York Times that the intensity and duration of the current heat wave across western Canada can be attributed to rising global temperatures. 

“It’s our grandparents’ heat waves, but it’s different now because of the human component,” Phillips told the Times in reference to human-caused climate change.

Canada’s temperatures are indisputably rising. According to Natural Resource Canada’s Canada’s Changing Climate report, published in 2019, average temperatures across Canada increased by 1.7 C between 1948 and 2016. The number jumps to 2.3 C for northern Canada.

“It is virtually certain that Canada’s climate has warmed and that it will warm further in the future,” the report says. “Extreme temperature changes, both in observations and future projections, are consistent with warming.”

In 2015, nearly 200 countries, Canada included, signed onto the Paris Agreement, an effort to limit the average rise in global temperatures since the pre-industrial era to below 2C. But even if countries pursue ambitious climate crisis plans, it’s unlikely we’ll hit the goal outlined in the agreement.

More heatwaves like the one currently gripping Canada are expected in the years to come, experts say. 

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