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Lessons Learned from the Pacific Northwest’s 2021 Heat Dome

Published on July 6, 2023

Color map image showing extreme temperatures in Pacific Northwest and Canada during 2021 heat dome.
Image Credit: European Space Agency (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

Two years after the deadliest weather-related disaster in Washington state history, public officials are taking stock. High pressure locked the area in a heat dome for a week, starting June 26. It broke dozens of temperature records, killed hundreds of people and sent hundreds more to hospitals, unprepared for the unprecedented heat, especially so early in the summer.

A new report from two groups of researchers at the University of Washington looks back at that event and provides strategies to prevent heat deaths and suffering in the future. It notes that extreme heat events are expected to increase, with likely four times as many days of extreme heat annually in the coming decades.

The authors [Jason Vogel, Interim Director of the UW’s Climate Impacts Group and Jeremy Hess, Director of the UW’s Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE)] suggest there are both short- and long-term ways to prepare – and that individual communities should take a “portfolio” approach to planning, tailoring a variety of options to their specific needs and making sure they reach the most vulnerable populations.

“Ultimately, this is a health issue. But it requires collaboration with a bunch of people who are not primarily health people, and who may not themselves feel that they have a health mandate. But they still have really important roles to play in protecting people from heat,” said Hess.

Continue reading at KNKX Public Radio.

Originally written by Bellamy Pailthorp for KNKX Public Radio.
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