Pacific Northwest Continues to Bake Beneath ‘Heat Dome’

A wave of ocean air provided some relief after Portland, Ore., reached 116 degrees on Monday. Temperatures reached the 90s there on Tuesday, forecasters said.,

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The heat dome that settled over the Pacific Northwest over the weekend, shattering records and causing roads to buckle in Portland, Ore., is expected to linger for days, as temperatures reached the 90s by Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service issued another excessive-heat warning on Tuesday for much of Washington State and Oregon that will remain in effect until Sunday. Forecasters predicted that temperatures would remain unseasonably hot into next week.

But a wave of cool ocean air provided a measure of relief overnight, with temperatures falling into the 60s in Portland and Seattle early Tuesday morning.

In Portland, the temperature fell to 64 from a record high of 116 on Monday afternoon, a difference of 52 degrees and a record overnight drop for the city, the National Weather Service said. In Salem, one of the cities hardest hit by the heat wave, temperatures dropped 56 degrees, to 61 from 117. The average overnight temperature drop for Portland is 20 to 30 degrees, the Weather Service said.

But this was only a break from the heat, not long-term relief, forecasters said.

In Portland, temperatures rebounded into the 90s on Tuesday and highs will reach the mid-80s later in the week, said Clinton Rockey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. Temperatures will still be 10 to 20 degrees above average at least until next Tuesday.

“That said, it’s a heck of a lot better than being 30 to 40 degrees above normal,” Mr. Rockey said.

While tying a single heat wave to climate change requires extensive attribution analysis, heat waves around the world are growing more frequent, longer lasting and more dangerous. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing. And the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. Also, the season for heat waves has stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, according to the report.

It is all part of an overall warming trend: The seven warmest years in the history of accurate worldwide record-keeping have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000; worldwide, June 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded, and June 2020 essentially tied it.

Last year tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to one analysis.

“The record-shattering extreme heat we’re experiencing is just the latest example of our climate crisis and how it’s impacting human health now,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Seattle and King County, Wash., said in a statement on Sunday.

The oppressive heat that settled in the Pacific Northwest was the result of a wide and deep mass of high-pressure air that, because of a wavy jet stream, parked itself over much of the region. Known as a heat dome, such an enormous high-pressure zone acts like a lid, trapping heat so it accumulates.

Matthew Cullen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle, said that Tuesday should be the last day of extreme heat in that city, with temperatures expected to hit 95 degrees, 20 degrees hotter than normal.

“The much bigger thing for us is that low temperatures are dropping well into the 60s,” Mr. Cullen said. “While that is slightly above normal, it allows people to open windows, clear out the hot air and cool down their homes overnight. When we don’t have those cooler overnight temperatures, that’s when things become really dangerous for a lot of folks out here.”

The overnight cooling came from what is known as a marine push, when a wave of ocean air replaces a hot air mass, lowers temperatures and raises humidity, according to the National Weather Service. In addition to a cooling effect, the marine air can also help create more cloud cover, providing some shade and making heat waves more “manageable,” Mr. Cullen said.

In a region where many people do not have air-conditioning, such drastic temperature drops can help ventilate homes that were built to retain heat. According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, another marine push is expected to move inland on Tuesday night.

Both Oregon and Washington reported a sharp increase in heat-related illnesses since the start of the heat wave. On Monday, hospitals in Oregon reported around 250 emergency room visits related to heat stroke, heat syncope, heat exhaustion or heat cramps.

In Washington, there were 1,384 emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and dehydration since Friday, Cory Portner, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, said on Tuesday night. He said it was the most heat-related injuries he had seen in a decade.

No heat-related deaths had been reported in either state, but officials in Washington were investigating three deaths potentially associated with heat-related illness, Mr. Portner said.

The heat also made it harder to get around Portland, as some streets buckled and much of the public transportation network was knocked offline from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning, official said. Some of the cables that power the Portland Streetcar system melted in the heat, forcing the system to suspend service on Sunday. The cables have since been fixed.

The heat also strained the overhead wires that deliver power to the city’s MAX Light Rail system, forcing TriMet, the agency that runs the light rail, to suspend service from Sunday to early Tuesday morning, The Oregonian reported.

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