Recent Heatwave in Canada

By: Aayushi Srivastava

Looking at the heatwave in Canada last month where the temperature had reached an all-time high of 49.6 ̇C, many people were helpless in this situation having no knowledge or preparation for this adversity. They now have to brace themselves to face perhaps more critical situations like wildfires and thunderstorms. The death toll of the country is at its peak.

Keeping this catastrophe in mind, let us analyze the situation of Canada and the causes, precautions, and how to be protected from it.

Heatwave in Canada

A blistering heatwave hit Canada and parts of the US last month, sending temperatures to dangerous highs of nearly 50C (122F). Hundreds of people have died. The heat has been so intense it has melted power cables and buckled roads.

What has caused this to happen?

The US/Canada heatwave has been caused by a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-induced climate change.

As per AFP, a leading news agency, the phenomenon causing this heatwave, which is dubbed “one of the most extreme heat waves that we have seen on Earth”, is called a “heat dome” which is when hot air is trapped by high-pressure fronts, and as it is pushed back to the ground, it heats up even more.

Daniel Swain, a climate expert at UCLA, also iterated that “it is very likely that climate change increased this heatwave to an even greater degree”, observing that the drought that the region has been witnessing for weeks may have bolstered the heat dome because the energy of the sun’s rays is no longer being used to evaporate water, so instead it warms the atmosphere more.

Climate change lately is a result of years of human negligence. We have contributed to an alarming increase in the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as well as forest fires, all leading to the warming of the planet.

Effect on people

Dozens of people have died in Canada amid an unprecedented heatwave that has smashed temperature records. Extreme thirst, tiredness, weakness, nausea, headache, and rapid breathing are some of the symptoms associated with heat-related illnesses. People can also experience vomiting, flushed skin, and decreased urination. Many homes in British Columbia do not have air conditioning as temperatures are usually far milder during the summer months. The number of heat-related fatalities is likely to rise as some areas say they have responded to sudden death incidents but have yet to collate the numbers. Agricultural workers are often now being given the option to start at dawn and finish at noon. But labor contractors say that some stay on to work regardless of the heat.

In Vancouver, residents reported car windows cracking and melting, even when they were not parked in the sun.

Vaccination centers were forced to close or relocate, schools shut their doors and some public transport was suspended — including the Portland Streetcar Service.

Elsewhere, shops were sold out of portable air conditioners, fans, ice, and water.

How long till things turn back to normal?

Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas of Canada and the northwest US but there has not been much respite for those living in inland regions.

The weather system is now moving eastwards over Canada’s Prairie Provinces — Alberta and Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba have been placed under heat warnings.

This mass of hot air has lasted so long because it is strongly diverting the jet stream — a current of fast-flowing air high in the Earth’s atmosphere — northwards and around itself, which in turn holds the heat dome in place.

However, real change will only take place when we start taking our responsibility seriously. We need to realize the implications of our actions on the planet and hence should take initiatives for environment-friendly measures.

How to prevent such drastic heatwaves in future

Planting trees and other vegetation lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and cooling through evapotranspiration.

A green roof, or rooftop garden, is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop. Green roofs provide shade and remove heat from the air through evapotranspiration, reducing the temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. Green roofs absorb heat and act as insulators for homes.

Using efficient appliances and equipment in homes can help to lighten the load on the electric grid during heat waves, thus ensuring a more reliable supply of electricity to the community.

Cool roofs help to reflect sunlight and heat away from home, reducing roof temperatures. This allows for the home to stay cooler, reducing the amount of air conditioning needed during hot days.

Only if we step up and realize the seriousness of climate change, will we be able to come up with a long-term solution to the issue.

We are a Non Profit Organisation which is based out of VIT, Vellore. We strive to utilise this platform to provide a forum for creative and fruitful discussions