Dozens of people have died as western Canada swelters from an unprecedented heatwave that resulted in the country breaking its all-time record for extreme heat everyday for three days in a row.
Lytton, British Columbia, hit a 49.6C on Tuesday, after recording 47.5C on Monday and 46.1C the day before that. Canada’s previous record was set more than 80 years ago when Saskatchewan reported 45 C in 1937.
Environment Canada is currently issuing heat warnings for most of the province, along with all of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of Manitoba. Coastal temperatures are finally starting to wane, but inland regions aren’t expected to cool off until the weekend or early next week.
Since Friday, police in Vancouver and surrounding cities have reportedly responded to more than 130 sudden deaths. On Tuesday alone, officers in Vancouver had responded to 45 (typically they respond to three or four per day). They’ve responded to 65 since Friday.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement. ““The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat.”
Seniors and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, the statement says. The B.C. Coroner's service confirmed the notable increase in deaths.
"Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory," Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.
Typically, the office receives 130 death reports over a four-day period, but there were 233 reported between Friday and Monday. “This number will increase as data continues to be updated," Lapointe said.
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.
Even though linking single weather events to the climate crisis is tricky, many experts are explicitly making the link as the widespread heatwaves continue. There’s also widespread agreement that such events will keep happening—the climate crisis is expected to continue causing frequent and consistent extreme weather events.
"We see evidence of climate change in the data already, but in the Pacific Northwest, we thought maybe by the middle of the century is when we would start to see really substantial and impactful events… But we’re seeing those now," Larry O'Neill, Oregon's state climatologist, told NBC News of the current heat waves gripping the Pacific Northwest.
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