Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population was covered by heat warnings or advisories issued by the National Weather Service on Thursday, as sweltering temperatures stretched in a band of misery that included parts of 20 states from Washington to Florida.
Among the places forecast to experience near triple-digit temperatures on Thursday: Kansas City and St. Louis at 99 degrees, Memphis at 98 degrees and Charlotte, N.C., at 96 degrees.
Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories currently extend across 20 states and include over 80 million people. Thankfully, cooler temperatures are expected to filter into much of these regions by early next week.
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 29, 2021
The level of heat and humidity at which the Weather Service issues excessive heat warnings and advisories varies from place to place, depending on local conditions. But both signal that temperatures are predicted to be dangerous enough to trigger potential health problems, such as heat stroke, that can be fatal.
The Pacific Northwest, where a high-pressure “heat dome” shattered temperature records and led to hundreds of deaths a month ago, was expected to again experience triple-digit temperatures on Friday and into the weekend. Most cities in the region won’t get quite as hot as they did in late June — and Seattle will be mostly spared, forecasters said — but parts of southern Oregon could reach 110 degrees.
All of this is bad news for firefighters in Oregon and Northern California, who are battling the nation’s largest wildfires.
The Southeast is less of a stranger to hot and muggy summer temperatures, but even there, strings of 100-degree days — like those expected through the weekend — can be punishing.
“This is a prolonged heat wave,” said the Weather Service office in Jackson, Miss., where it could feel like 115 degrees.
The heat index, a measure of both heat and humidity, is expected to reach between 105 and 110 degrees in many parts of the South, from Texas to South Carolina. “Quite steamy,” as the Weather Service put it.
Next week will see things cool down, the agency said, bringing a “closer to normal forecast” across most of the country.
At least five injuries were reported and several buildings were damaged on Thursday night after tornadoes touched down in eastern New Jersey and eastern Ohio amid storms throughout the region.
One tornado, moving east at 25 m.p.h., swept through an area near Barnegat Township, N.J., the National Weather Service in Mount Holly reported. Two tornadoes touched down in Jefferson and Harrison Counties, Ohio, leaving behind damaged buildings and power outages, a Jefferson County dispatcher said. No one was injured, he said.
Earlier, the Mount Holly office said forecasters had spotted “tornadic storms” near Trenton, in Mercer County, N.J., and Bucks County, Pa. Forecasters did not immediately confirm whether the storms were tornadoes, but at least five people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, the authorities in Bensalem, Pa., said.
A police and fire dispatcher in Bucks County, Pa., said people called in reports of building collapses, fallen roofs and downed trees and wires. Authorities responded to a collapse at a car dealership, Bensalem Fire Rescue said on Twitter.
“Roadways are impassable because of debris,” the Fire Department said.
A witness inside the dealership said he heard a loud bang outside before he and his mother hid under a table.
“I just held her in my arms,” he told the television station WPVI, “and then I watched the glass implode and the ceiling fall in and everything kind of caved in.”
Scientists are not yet able to determine whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes. Tornadoes are relatively small, short-lived weather events with a limited data record.
Researchers, however, do say that in recent years tornadoes seem to be occurring in greater “clusters,” and that tornado alley seems to be shifting eastward.
Besieged by what is shaping up to be yet another catastrophic wildfire season, the governors of California and Nevada intensified calls this week for more federal firefighting assistance, noting that the challenge in the West will only worsen with drought and climate change.
Touring the wreckage of the Tamarack Fire, which has charred some 68,000 acres across the two states, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada, both Democrats, said on Wednesday that the federal government controls most of the forested land in their states, but federal firefighting has been underfunded.
“We need to disabuse ourselves that we can continue to do what we’ve done,” said Mr. Newsom, meeting with firefighters near Gardnerville, Nev. “The world is radically changing because of climate change — if you don’t believe in science, believe your own damned eyes.”
Limited resources have prompted the U.S. Forest Service to allow some large wilderness fires, including the Tamarack Fire near Topaz Lake, a reservoir on the border of the two states, to burn this summer. Ignited by lightning on July 4, the fire has cut a 106-square-mile swath through the two states, destroying some two dozen structures and blackening an area larger than the city of Reno.
State and local firefighting resources have been called on to protect nearby communities and to support federal firefighters through mutual aid agreements, a common — and increasingly costly — arrangement. The federal government manages about 60 percent of the fire-prone wildlands in California and about 80 percent in Nevada, the governors noted.
“I want to reach out to the federal government and say: We need some more help,” Mr. Sisolak said. “We need to hire more firefighters, and we need a more federally orchestrated plan and response to these fires because it’s not stopping, folks. It’s continuing, and it’s continuing stronger than it was before.”
On Thursday, the Tamarack Fire was 59 percent contained, and evacuation orders for about 2,000 people had been lifted. But scores of other blazes continued to rage in a season that has already started far earlier than usual.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, the largest so far this year, has been burning for weeks, consuming more than 400,000 acres, and in California, the Dixie Fire in the Lassen National Forest, exploded overnight to more than 220,000 acres.
Scientists say climate change and a record drought have made Western wildfires far larger and more destructive. Mr. Newsom said he and other governors in the West plan to ask the White House this week for more firefighters and more federal assistance.
The governors of California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming plan to meet virtually with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday to discuss fire prevention, according to Mr. Newsom’s office. The meeting is the president’s second in two months.
Mr. Biden promised in June to raise pay for federal firefighters and increase state and local grants for wildfire resilience. The bipartisan infrastructure bill he negotiated with Congress also includes $50 billion for “climate resilience” to shore up roads, ports and bridges against the effects of climate change, drought, floods, wildfires and extreme weather conditions.
The two governors in Nevada on Wednesday said the need was urgent. California has already had nearly 5,700 wildfires this year.
“The hots are getting hotter, and the dries are getting drier,” Mr. Newsom said. “It requires a radically different approach to governance and building partnerships at a different level than we ever have seen before.”
Wisconsin’s governor declared a state of emergency on Thursday after severe thunderstorms with the potential to produce hurricane-force winds swept across the southern part of the state and elsewhere in the Midwest overnight.
“Last night’s storms affected communities from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, leaving many regions with widespread damage,” Gov. Tony Evers said when issuing an executive order declaring the state of emergency, which directs state agencies to provide assistance and would allow members of the Wisconsin National Guard to help if needed.
The order said that heavy rainfall and large hail had caused damage in several counties, and that tornadoes had been reported. The National Weather Service later said that its preliminary investigation had confirmed that a tornado touched down near Concord, Wis., west of Milwaukee.
**Prelim Survey Results**
Damage near Concord, WI (Jefferson County) has been confirmed to be a tornado, with a preliminary damage rating of EF1. The tornado occurred at approximately 1:15 AM CDT on July 29, 2021. Path length and other details still TBD.
— NWS Milwaukee (@NWSMilwaukee) July 29, 2021
On Wednesday, the service’s Storm Prediction Center warned that severe weather could affect more than 5.9 million people in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the Wisconsin cities of Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine and nearby areas.
The center later said the storms had the potential to produce “widespread and potentially significant wind damage,” including winds greater than 70 miles per hour, and that there was a tornado threat in southeast Wisconsin.
Ben Miller, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, said the line of storms had the potential to become what is known collectively as a derecho (pronounced deh-REY-cho).
Derechos are widespread wind storms that have the potential to produce damage similar to what tornadoes can inflict. For a storm system to be considered a derecho, the swath of wind damage must extend more than 240 miles with wind gusts of at least 58 m.p.h.
Last August, a derecho tore through parts of the Midwest, leaving more than 250,000 people without power in Illinois and Iowa. At least two people were killed as a result of the severe weather, and millions of acres of crops were damaged.
Warnings were also issued on Thursday for the Mid-Atlantic region, where there was an increased risk of severe thunderstorms.
“Thunderstorms associated with wind damage and a risk for a tornado, will be possible from the Ohio Valley, central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic States on Thursday,” according to the Weather Service.
At least 80 people were killed with a hundred more missing after a flash flood tore through a village in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan late Wednesday night, Afghan officials said.
The deluge swept away most of the village in the Nuristan Province, destroying around 200 homes, and caught most residents off guard because they were sleeping. By Thursday night, villagers had recovered around 80 bodies but as the search continues, local officials expect the death toll to surpass 200.
“It is wiped out, nothing remains after floods,” said Abdul Naser, a resident of the district who visited the village on Thursday. “No aid has arrived yet, and there are no measures for caskets, coffins and funerals.”
The flash flood is the latest blow for Afghanistan, where fighting between government forces and the Taliban has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in recent months and pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian crisis, aid agencies say.
Floods in northern and eastern Afghanistan are not uncommon this time of year. In August last year, flooding in Charikar, a city on the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, in northern Afghanistan, killed at least 92 people and injured 108 others.
But the flash flood in Nuristan comes as extreme weather has taken a grim toll around the world this summer and scientists warn that warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is changing the climate. In recent decades, flash floods have become increasingly common in Afghanistan after widespread deforestation largely destroyed the open woodlands and closed forests that once slowed the flow of water down mountainsides.
LONDON — A powerful storm is expected to lash southwestern Britain starting Thursday night, after a month that has brought a series of extreme weather events to the country.
The storm, named Evert, “is forecast to bring unseasonably strong winds and heavy rain to southern parts of the U.K. later today and into Friday,” the Met Office, Britain’s national meteorological service, said on Twitter. Wind gusts of up to 75 miles per hour are expected.
The Met Office’s severe weather warning system is divided into three levels: Yellow for low-level impacts; amber for travel delays, road and rail closures, power cuts, and potential risk to life and property; and red, the most dangerous of all.
An amber wind warning will be in place from Thursday night until Friday morning for much of Cornwall, in southwestern England, as well as the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast. Yellow warnings are also in place for the wider southwest, southern Wales and along the southern coast of England.
In 2015, the Met Office and Met Éireann, Ireland’s national meteorological service, began naming storms in an effort to improve communication about them and to raise awareness. Storms are named when they meet the criteria for an amber or red warning level, based on the threat posed by the storm.
Evert is the third named storm to strike Britain this year. In January, Christoph brought wind, rain and flooding across Wales and Manchester, England. The next month, Darcy caused widespread travel disruptions with heavy snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures across the country.
Evert comes after torrential rain caused flash flooding in parts of London twice in recent weeks, most recently on Sunday. A fierce heat wave this month also prompted the Met Office to issue its first-ever extreme heat warning.
Extreme weather events are becoming more common in a warming world. A summer heat wave this month saw Northern Ireland hit its highest temperature on record.
“That’s part of a pattern of our warming climate,” said Dr. Mark McCarthy, a climate information scientist at the Met Office, who added, “The warmer atmosphere in changing climate is also likely to increase the risk of really intense summer rainfall events.”
The Pacific Northwest is about to be twice baked.
A month after a record-shattering heat wave, forecasters predict that temperatures on Friday and Saturday will again approach or exceed 100 degrees in cities including Portland, Ore., and Spokane, Wash. — places that rarely experience triple-digit heat.
It won’t be as hot as it got a month ago, when Spokane hit 109 degrees, its warmest mark ever, and other cities across the region also topped out their thermometers at record levels.
But it could be enough to cause more misery and health concerns in a region where air conditioning isn’t standard issue, and where residents aren’t used to sweating for multiple days in scorching heat, which killed hundreds across the region in late June.
The returning heat will also increase the difficulty of fighting the nation’s largest wildfires, including the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, which has been burning since July 6 and has consumed more than 413,000 acres, according to a New York Times wildfire tracker, and the Dixie Fire in Northern California, which has burned 220,000 acres.
Rain showers provided some help to firefighters this week, but the return of hot, dry weather will again make the blazes harder to contain. The Bootleg Fire, although it is more than twice as large as the Dixie Fire, is burning mostly in remote forest and threatens only about 300 people who live within five miles, according to the Times’s tracker. The Dixie Fire is in a remote but more densely populated part of California, near towns scarred by the 2018 Camp Fire, the largest in state history. About 5,200 people live within five miles.
Elsewhere in the United States, much of the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast will continue to experience extreme heat on Thursday and Friday. “Excessive heat covers much of the central third of the country and is expected to persist into the weekend,” the National Weather Service said late Wednesday.
Seattle won’t get nearly as hot as some of the other cities in the Pacific Northwest this week, or approach the record high of 108 degrees set a month ago. But it is facing another record: the most consecutive days without rain in a city known for its gray skies and wet sidewalks.
Thursday is forecast to be the 45th day in a row that no measurable rain (defined as 0.01 inches or more) has fallen in Seattle, according to the private forecasting service AccuWeather, which said no appreciable rain was expected through the weekend.
“That count is likely to near 50 before any serious threat of rain approaches the city,” said Courtney Travis, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. The city’s record for consecutive days with no measurable rainfall: 55, set in 2017.
What is the cost of our carbon footprint — not just in dollars, but in lives?
According to a paper published on Thursday, it is soberingly high, and perhaps high enough to help shift attitudes about how much we should spend on fighting climate change.
The new paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, draws on multiple areas of research to find out how many future lives will be lost as a result of rising temperatures if humanity keeps producing greenhouse gas emissions at high rates — and how many lives could be saved by cutting those emissions.
Most of the deaths will occur in regions that tend to be hotter and poorer than the United States. These areas are typically less responsible for global emissions but more heavily affected by the resulting climate disasters.
R. Daniel Bressler, a Ph.D candidate at Columbia University, calculated that adding about a quarter of the output of a coal-fired power plant, or roughly a million metric tons of carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere on top of 2020 levels for just one year will cause 226 deaths globally.
By comparison, the lifetime emissions beyond 2020 levels of a handful of Americans (3.5, to be precise) will result in one additional heat-related death in this century.
Mr. Bressler also contrasted the effects of people in nations with big carbon footprints with those in smaller ones. While the carbon emissions generated by fewer than four Americans would kill one person, it would require the combined carbon dioxide emissions of 146.2 Nigerians for the same result. The worldwide average to cause that single death is 12.8 people.
The $1 trillion infrastructure deal reached by a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday would make a significant down payment on President Biden’s ambitious environmental agenda, including the first federal expenditure on electric vehicle charging stations and the largest investment in public transit and clean water systems in the nation’s history.
The plan also includes the first federal spending designated for “climate resilience” — to adapt and rebuild roads, ports and bridges to withstand the damages wrought by the rising sea levels, stronger storms and more devastating heat waves that will come as the planet continues to warm.
But the money for provisions to cut the pollution fueling climate change is a fraction of the $2 trillion that Mr. Biden once vowed to spend. The White House sees the bipartisan measure, which includes $550 billion in new spending, as a first step toward passing a separate $3.5 trillion bill that Democrats hope to push through this fall on a party-line basis, over the objection of Republicans.
Democrats intend to build significant climate programs into that second bill, including a provision that would essentially pay electric utilities to generate energy from nonpolluting sources, and tax incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles.
“As climate policy, this is an appetizer,” Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said of the package unveiled on Wednesday. “It’s not the main course.”
California’s wildfire season is already in full swing, and it’s only July. The Dixie Fire, which is the state’s largest this year, has burned through 220,000 acres in a region scarred by memories of the 2018 Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest in history, and threatens 5,200 people who live within five miles, according to The New York Times wildfire tracker.
One of the solutions to these blazes? More fire. Planned, low-intensity fires, called prescribed burns, get rid of dead and dry vegetation that fuels explosive wildfires.
Setting fire to stop fire is an ancient practice. Many of California’s ecosystems need fire in order to thrive. But since the 1900s, the Western states have focused on putting fires out. The result? California’s wildlands are dangerously overgrown. Now, there’s a growing movement to change the way the state handles fire. Our video takes you to the front lines of the wildfire crisis, where “burn bosses” are trying to save their state by lighting it on fire.