Blazing temperatures have Canadians concerned about the effects of climate change on a country bordering the Arctic.
British Columbia closed schools, issued flood warnings from glacier melts, and urged people to stay indoors because of extreme heat that pushed temperatures in the western Canadian province to a national record.
Social media posts with tips on staying cool without air conditioners went viral on Monday in a province where less than 40 percent of homes have air conditioning.
Lytton, a town in central British Columbia roughly 200km (124 miles) north of Vancouver, reported a temperature of 46.6°C (115.88°F) on Sunday. Prior to the weekend, the historical high in Canada was 45°C, set in Saskatchewan in 1937, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The high sustained heat is unusual to the Pacific Northwest, which is more accustomed to long bouts of rain than sun, and is caused by a high-pressure system that is not moving, said Greg Flato, a senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada based in Victoria.
“Temperatures get very hot during the day, they don’t cool off that much of the night and they stay relatively stationary, as opposed to the usual kind of weather events here on the West Coast … that come in across the Pacific [Ocean] and sweep across us,” Flato said.
“It drives home the point that climate is changing. Science has been telling us for a long time but to be actually immersed in it, as we are here and having to sleep down in the basement to stay cool – it really drives that home.”
Other Canadians also raised concerns about the effects of global warming on the country that borders the Arctic.
“Climate change is a public health emergency and we need to treat it like one,” BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau said on Twitter. “BC is now facing a reality of extreme weather events or forest fires every single summer.”
‘Steroids for weather’
David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, told CTV News that climate change tends to make heatwaves and other weather events more volatile and extreme, describing it as “steroids for weather”.
BC broke a record for the most 911 calls received as emergency operators took about 8,000 messages on Friday.
BC authorities issued a number of flood-watch notices in response to accelerated snowmelt rates. Natural Resources Canada warned of “extreme” wildfire risks.
“Temperatures are in uncharted territory,” said Yan Boulanger, a forest ecologist with the department. “Those indices for forest fire are very, very high right now.”