Dispatches from the Heat Front 3: Comparisons

I’m going to give you some data. I realize that this data won’t necessarily match what you’re seeing on your local news or on your favorite weather app. The Environment Canada temps may be different than temperatures recorded by other entities (for instance, Weather.com might aggregate data from local TV stations, while EC’s station might be located in a different spot in the same town). So you won’t consistently get one high temp for a city between different websites. One site might have more shade, or be located at a slightly different elevation. My own thermometer is consistently one or one & a half degrees (celsius) warmer than reported local highs, but during windstorms our max wind speeds are typically much slower. So you can’t compare cross platform.

But you can compare EC weather data this year to past years, and right now Campbell River is about 2 degrees over its highest recorded temp on this date in past years. Sure, okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. But it’s Celsius, so it’s more like 3 degrees Fahrenheit to you in the States. It’s not creeping over the past record, this is a solid smashing of the record.

Still. 2 Degrees. There are reliable records going back to WW2, but that’s not, like, centuries or something. And it’s just 2 degrees. Maybe that’s okay? Maybe that’s not too bad? Maybe that’s even the pattern then? We’ll just call this heat wave a +2 degree heat wave compared to historic highs?

Well, Nanaimo’s historic high on this date was 32.6.
Current temp? 39.6

Nanaimo got it beat by 7 full degrees, or 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But that can’t be the pattern everywhere, right? That’s a ridiculous smashing of the record. What about Vancouver & Victoria?

Vancouver, on the water and in the cooling west wind, had a historic high of 27.5. Current temp is 29.8
Now that’s more like Campbell River. Just 2.3 degrees of overkill. Phew. Maybe the pattern really is just 2 degrees of excess and Nanaimo is the outlier?

So should we try Victoria? Historic is 30.5.
Current temp? 38.4
Got it beat by 7.9 degrees. SEVEN POINT NINE. That’s an overkill of 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fortunately the record setting highs in the BC interior are by their nature no more moderated by the ocean now than they were in past years, so even if they’re baking out there, they almost certainly have much higher historic temps, making people better prepared for this sort of thing.

So let’s check out Penticton, down on the US border with eastern Washington state.
Penticton historic high? 34.9
Current temp? 40.4
Look! Only 5.5 degrees Celsius of overkill, or 9.9F.

For thoroughness, maybe we ought to check out Lytton, BC, the city that just yesterday recorded the highest temperature ever recorded ANYWHERE in Canada on any day of the year. You can’t possibly set the record for hottest damn temp in all of Canada without being a pretty damn hot place, right?

Lytton historic high? 38.0
Current Temp? 45.5
Slashed it by 7.5 degrees.

So get this: the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in Canada on any date of the year has been 45 degrees for longer than I’ve been alive. Longer than my mom has been alive, actually. But Lytton smashed it yesterday by 1.6 degrees Celsius AND they’ve beaten the old record gain today by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius. Two days in a row, same town, they beat the entire rest of Canada over the last 100 years.

Of course, some may say these comparisons are unfair, since these are reported temps from an hour or more ago, so the hottest temp of the day hasn’t even been reported yet.

That’s right, the “current temps” are also unlikely to be today’s high in those places.

So in case you’ve been wondering, “Sure, that’s hot, but how does that measure up historically?” I can tell you that this is how it measures up. The hottest temps ever recorded in Canada have previously been mostly in the Prairie Provinces in the middle. Now they’ve come to BC, It’s like if Omaha just set the record for hottest temp ever recorded, beating out Death Valley by half a degree. Sure, they’ve got hot summers, I guess. But the hottest temp ever in all the USA?

And we’re taking the highest June 28th every city in BC has ever known and adding 5 degrees or so.

You may live in Phoenix or somewhere that gets 45 degrees often enough that you’ve lived through it before and can be confident you’ll have to live through it again, but take whatever is the hottest your city has ever been & add 5 C or 9 F and think about what that would mean for you.

We are so fucking unprepared. This shit is stupidly hard to comprehend just how bad it is, so I hope that rather than simply a number with someone yelling, FUCK IT’S HOT! that I can give you something more useful by comparing Lytton to Omaha, past Canada high to death valley, and each city’s mid afternoon temp that’s not quite today’s high to its own past hottest June 28th.

The more you learn about this, the more crazy it seems.


  1. says

    I wish my work counted it as an inclement weather day. Their solution was to offer for some of us to come in from the work-at-home-quarantine because they have some half-ass AC in there which is more than most of us have at home, but to get there I’d have to spend time waiting for buses outdoors. I took the last 2:15 of my shift as sick leave, feeling woozy from the sweatbox bedroom.

  2. says

    Even attempts to beat the heat are dangerous. I read about an outdoorl swimming pool in Washington state that was closed because the pool deck was unsafe to walk on, it was that hot.

    The elderly, the poor, the young and other vulnerable people will be the ones to die, not the ubercapitalists who lied and fought scientists and environmentalists for the last fifty years.

  3. StonedRanger says

    It got to 118F in the shade on my patio today. Thats about 47.77C. Just too damn hot to contemplate. My house is made of cinder blocks and they do not cool down quickly. Inside my house had to be close to 100F. Anyone who thinks climate change isnt real needs to spend a couple of days in my house.

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