It’s Too Damn Hot

It's over a 100 degrees in Portland, Oregon, Sunday with an expected high of “Fuck You." A heat dome, the type normally found in an arid southwest desert, has parked itself over the Pacific Northwest, and an excessive heat warning is in effect for most of Oregon and Washington through Monday night.

According to meteorologist Ben Noll, Portland is hotter today than about 99.8 percent of the Earth. The only places worse off are Africa's Sahara Desert, the Persian Gulf, and California's deserts. Normal highs this time of year in Portland are in the mid-70s or what Southerners like myself call “sweater weather." The record-breaking temperatures have climate scientists concerned and sweaty.

"This is pretty early in the season to be experiencing so many days where temperatures are record breaking. It's worrisome. It's just June," said Deepti Singh, a climate scientist and associate professor at WSU Vancouver. "This should be a warning sign for us that we're experiencing the impacts of climate change right now."

Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, has an alternate theory for the heat wave, which the Stranger declares “bonkers."

Our region has warmed by up to 1-2F during the past fifty years and that will enhance the heatwave. Increasing CO2 is probably the biggest contributor to the warming.

But consider that the temperature anomalies (differences from normal) during this event will reach 30-35F. The proximate cause of this event is a huge/persistent ridge of high pressure, part of a highly anomalous amplification of the upper-level wave pattern.

There is no evidence that such a wave pattern is anything other than natural variability (I have done research on this issue and published in the peer-reviewed literature on this exact topic).

So without global warming, a location that was 104F would have been 102F. Still a severe heat wave, just slightly less intense.

That sounds a lot like the goofball scientists who dismissed Jor-El's warnings that Krypton was going to explode within days, so they better stuff their kid in a rocket and ship them to a planet that welcomes undocumented immigrants. These geniuses insisted that Krypton was just shifting in its orbit, which is still bad, right? Orbit-shifting isn't a shoulders-shrugging conclusion. It's how you wind up with the planet inching closer to the sun, like in that Twilight Zone episode. Was everyone on Krypton a Republican?

Oregon and Washington residents are unprepared for extreme heat events, just as Texas was devastated earlier this year by extreme cold. Just 36 percent of homes in Seattle have air conditioning, one of the lowest rates for a major US city. Portland fortunately has more than double that number. We're not just talking about temporary discomfort, though, or sleepless nights. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 618 people die from extreme heat each year, and that number will only rise with more triple-digit days.

A dry June with summer thunderstorms expected to arrive sooner than normal also means an increased risk for wildfires. This just sucks all around.

If you do have air conditioning or even open windows and a determined fan, please stay home. This heat is no joke. Stay hydrated and watch something that makes you feel cool. I'm not writing anything else. It's too damn hot.

Oh, and while we're here, here's Ann Miller. I saw the 1953 Kiss Me Kate movie in 3D (!) at the New York Film Forum in the summer of 2000. As I recall, the night was rather mild.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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