The Pacific Northwest trapped under a heat dome
Climate change warnings of the past have now become a reality
Global warming has been on our radar for decades. While climate change deniers have discredited the natural consequences of this crisis, recent events have made it difficult to continue on that path. Climate change is impacting the planet.
This past week, the pacific northwest region has been experiencing one of the worst heat waves ever recorded. Salem, Oregon, reached 117 degrees, something never been seen before in the area. In Seattle, temperatures reached as high as 108 degrees. Predictions indicate they will reach up to 112 degrees in Spokane, Washington, for four days consecutively.
Those affected by the heatwave sounded the alarm; in British Columbia, temperatures reached 118.2 degrees in places like Lytton. In addition, the region earned its highest temperatures recorded for two consecutive afternoons as of Monday evening.
Housing Markets are Unprepared
The pacific northwest has historically experienced cooler weather, and the construction of single and multi-family homes reflects that. Unfortunately, most houses cannot handle extreme heat. They lack central air conditioning systems, making it extremely difficult to withstand rising temperatures like those witnessed this week.
Those most affected by extreme weather events have been the elderly, young children, and people with chronic diseases due to vulnerable health, which presents a greater risk for this population.
The construction of homes and other critical infrastructure does not safeguard against high temperatures. The heat dome currently trapping the pacific northwest is concerning because we’ve seen what intense heat has done in the past.
In 2003, the European heatwave resulted in 70,000 deaths, during which average temperature was higher than any year since 1851. Events like these have proven extremely dangerous to human health as extreme heat events trigger several heat stress conditions, the most prominent being a heat stroke.
Nearby cooling centers run by local government and other community organizations are doing their best to provide safe havens to those most vulnerable across many communities. Still, inevitably, some people are left unprotected.
What the past tells us
The climate here on earth has changed throughout its history, and in the last 650,000 years alone, there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. The most notable one known to human civilization is the abrupt end of the last ice age some 11,700 years ago.
This period marked the beginning of the modern climate era. It brought about climate changes primarily due to minor variations in the earth's orbit that affected its solar energy.
Since the mid-20th century, the earth has experienced a warming trend that is likely the result of human activity. The industrial age and burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil have caused our carbon emissions footprint to grow significantly.
New advancements in production have increased greenhouse gases, which are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. These gases come primarily from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and petroleum for energy use.
Governments all around the globe have hunkered down on greenhouse gas emissions. They have even agreed to a legally binding international treaty on climate change. All to aid in climate change justice initiatives to slow down catastrophes that we’re already beginning to recognize.
In the past, extreme weather events have mostly affected economically disadvantaged populations with fewer resources, but that’s no longer the reality.
The issue of a changing climate is nearing some of the most affluent countries on our planet, forcing more people to wake up to the truth.
In the U.S., surging temperatures have meant worsening wildfire seasons, hurricane seasons, and the decay and possibly extinction of wildlife.
These are no longer problems for others to worry about; people are now feeling the results of global rising temperatures far and wide.
A prime example is the water-front residential building that collapsed in Miami, resulting in 12 casualties and leaving over 149 people trapped under the rubble. Although the incident is under investigation, scientists are alluding to decaying infrastructure as a significant sign that climate change affects civilization in real-time.
And it’s not just inland where we see the most impact. We’re seeing rising sea levels throughout that have left coastal transport in need of urgent repairs bringing entire economies to a halt.
With higher maintenance demands and repairs, infrastructure is decaying at a record-breaking pace. Human behavior has played a significant role in the natural rate at which it happens.
Rising Heat and Infrastructure
For decades climate change research has warned us of events that would become more commonly experienced.
The most dangerous to local economies are indeed weather events that affect infrastructure. When it comes to rising temperatures, one of the significant byproducts caused by heatwaves is thermal expansion, altering the materials used in road infrastructure and construction.
Heat affects matter in different ways. Because particles are in constant motion and have spaces between them, when you add heat to matter, it causes the particles within that system to change state.
Thermal heating or heat energy happens when a rise in temperature causes atoms and molecules to move faster and collide. The energy that arises from the temperature of the heated substance is called thermal energy. Thermal energy is what causes materials to change since heat creates the actual flow of thermal energy.
This type of effect on matter is what we’re seeing in areas of the pacific northwest where roads are pretty literally buckling under intense heat.
Global Warming and Water
Water is constantly on the move through a complex process known as the water cycle.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, global warming has a measurable effect on this cycle, influencing the sum, circulation, timing, and nature of accessible water.
Places in the U.S. – precisely, the Northeast and Midwest – can anticipate expanded precipitation and overflow, particularly in winter and spring, prompting increased flooding.
Conversely, different regions – strikingly the Southwest – can expect less rainfall, particularly in the warm months. And more severe dry spells as storm tracks shift toward the north, leaving parched regions progressively dry.
Overall, wet areas can expect to become wetter and dry areas drier, placing additional stress on the nation's over-taxed water systems. And, of course, water-dependent sectors like agriculture are most affected.
Water scarcity, aging water infrastructure, and lack of funding have made drought more common in rural places like Central Valley, California. Declining water and drought are destabilizing entire ecosystems in the area.
Naturally, we’re also witnessing unusual cold fronts, which also supports the notion of an unpredictable climate. In addition, the global rise in average temperatures has brought more severe weather and concern about upcoming hurricane seasons.
What can consumers do to help in real-time?
Climate change is frightening, but many things can help the planet slow down global decay. Although consumers might feel like there’s no coming back from catastrophe, experts say otherwise.
The actions of a few could have a humbling effect on the efforts of many, and you can start making a change in the comfort of your own home. One of the easiest ways to begin is understanding our output and carbon footprint every day. This means making better choices as a consumer.
Be conscious of water waste. When are appliances being used? Not using appliances during peak hours, increasing the temperature of your thermostat during the day, and using ceiling fans are all great ways to keep your energy consumption down.
PowerX and Emissions Tracking
Innovation for climate justice is prompting companies to develop solutions to the global climate crisis. As a result, not only does the planet require it, but consumers are beginning to look for products and companies that support sustainable climate initiatives.
PowerX is one of those companies. Our products are created to make homes more waste-conscious while saving hundreds of dollars per year on electricity, heat, and water utilities.
In addition, PowerX products help owners and operators get a clear picture of water, heating, and electric spending.
Becoming aware of inefficiencies brings about changes in our everyday behaviors, and taking action is the first step in that direction. Then, as consumers, we must seek ways to improve our consumption in manageable ways, allowing us all to make a considerable difference.
Change begins at home, and the actions of one can change the efforts of many. Assessing the patterns of waste in our own homes can significantly impact and even slow down the rate at which we are all experiencing climate change.
To learn more about how you can change and turn your home into a smart, waste-conscious home, visit Our Products to review a complete list of products.