We’re halfway through 2021, but already the US has experienced weather extremes the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
Much of the country is smack dab in the middle of a mega heat wave that has exploded in the West along with a megadrought that’s been decades in the making. This all stacks up to more and more dangerous air pollution.
The most vulnerable to extreme heat are young children and the elderly. Those without access to green space and shade trees (exposed pavement soaks up heat) due to years of racist redlining practices also bear a heavier health burden. That’s especially true for Black pregnant moms.
Here are a few recent examples of how extreme high heat, coupled with drought of “historic proportions” has risen the severe risk of wildfires across the West:
Heat Waves Are Longer and Hotter
Extreme heat is deadly, killing more Americans than other weather events.
In Arizona, a heat wave and high winds fed into the sixth largest fire in the state’s history. The Arizona Department of Environmental Air Quality declared that smog pollution reached dangerous levels. Colorado saw temperatures rise to over 100 degrees in Denver. And Sacramento, California, hit 110 degrees, breaking a high record of 102 degrees in 1976.
Severe and Exceptional Drought Conditions Widen
According to the US Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought in June covered 38.5% of the US including Puerto Rico.
There are currently “extreme” drought conditions in Western Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Massive swaths of the West (72%) are experiencing “severe” drought conditions, while 26% is in “exceptional” drought conditions—the worst drought category.
More and More Intense Wildfires
Wildfires burned earlier than usual this year, with greater intensity, for longer periods.
From the beginning of 2021 through June, the National Interagency Fire Center claims, more than 1 million acres have burned. This is an increase from last year at this time. And wildfires continue to wreak havoc throughout parts of the West.
As climate-fueled weather events reach unparalleled record highs, impacting our health, homes, and jobs, when will it end?
When it gets hot enough for Congress to take serious action on climate.