North West US/Canada Pacific Heatwave: The Climate Alarmist Waffle Begins As We Await ‘The Science’

I’m holding back on saying too much about the recent brief but extremely intense heatwave in Oregon and other NW Pacific coastal areas. It was a remarkable and ‘unprecedented’ meteorological event for sure. Not only record breaking temperatures (reference last century) but record breaking rapid cooling too – which I’m sure the climate change hysterics won’t be pointing out nearly as frequently as they do gasp with a mixture of barely concealed wild excitement and pro-forma alarm at the ‘unbelievably’ high maximum daytime temperatures. Here’s what Cliff Mass (meteorologist, not climate alarmist) has to say:

It’s over.   

Throughout the region, all-time temperature records have been broken, if not smashed.   Just to name a few:

SeaTac hit 108F, beating the previous record of 103F.

Olympia reached 109F, exceeding the previous record of 105F

Quillayute, on the WA coast, zoomed to 110F, absolutely smashing the previous record of 99F

Portland hit 116F, incinerating the previous record of 107F.

In eastern Washington, Dallesport tied the all-time state record of 118F

East of I5, many locations in western Washington exceeded 110F yesterday.

But we had not only had extreme heat….far beyond that observed over the past century… but also record-breaking cooling as a thin layer of marine air surged in last night.

Portland cooled by 52F (116 to 64) and Salem by 56F (117 to 61) in a matter of hours.
Seattle cooled by an impressive 46F!
Quillayute by 48F.

The visible satellite imagery this morning showed that marine clouds not only covered the coast but pushed inland around the Olympics.

To get the lowdown hype from the climate alarmists, we need only go to Inside Climate News who shout excitedly:

Global Warming Cauldron Boils Over in the Northwest in One of the Most Intense Heat Waves on Record Worldwide

As residents prepare for even more temperature records to fall in the heat dome forecast to persist for days, scientists see a heavy climate change fingerprint.

Well, it ‘persisted’ for two days and it’s now over, but ‘scientists’ can already see a ‘heavy climate change footprint’ apparently. Really? Wow, that was fast, especially as the heatwave was still actually happening at the time the article was written! My goodness. So where is this Sasquatch-like climate change footprint then?


In a Twitter thread over the weekend, Ben Noll, a meteorologist with the New Zealand National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, reported that Portland, Oregon would be hotter than 99.9 percent of the rest of the planet on Sunday. “The only places expected to be hotter: Africa’s Sahara Desert, Persian Gulf, California’s deserts,” he tweeted. 

Or here?

The intensity of the heat wave, measured by how far temperatures are spiking above normal, is among the greatest ever measured globally. The extremes are on par with a 2003 European heat wave that killed about 70,000 people, and a 2013 heat wave in Australia, when meteorologists added new shades of dark purple to their maps to show unprecedented temperatures.

And the more extreme the temperature records, climate scientists said, the more obvious the fingerprint of global warming will be on the heat wave. But even among climate scientists, the biggest concern was the immediate impacts of the record shattering temperatures.

Is this getting warmer?

The current Western heat wave is remarkable by almost any standard, said University of Reading climate scientist Chloe Brimicombe. But such events are becoming more common, to a large degree because of the 1.2 degree Celsius global average temperature increase since the industrial revolution has pushed the heat wave needle into the red zone, she said. 

“Heat waves are our alarm system for the climate emergency,” she said. “If there are more heatwaves, our emergency is getting worse.”

Or, surely, here? This sounds much more sciency:

Karin Bumbaco, a research scientist at the University of Washington who serves as Washington’s assistant state climatologist, called climate change attribution “a really great question, and it is one that’s hard to answer.” She said it won’t be possible to tease apart how much natural variability and how much man-made warming can be blamed for the current Northwest heat wave until scientific studies examine what happened, which typically takes months or years. 

“But, you know, even without that being done, it’s a safe assumption, in my view, to blame increasing greenhouse gases for some portion of this event—Washington state is warming, the Pacific Northwest is warming, globally we’re warming,” she said. “As we shift that baseline, we’re going to see more and more of these extreme events.”

Well, it was sounding all sciency and dutifully cautious, but then she threw science and caution to the wind in the second paragraph by going full ‘Alf Garnett’ on her attribution statement, i.e. “It must be climate change – It stands to reason, don’t it”.

But the prize for the kookiest, most bizarre attribution goes to Gavin Schmidt:

For climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Pacific Northwest extreme heat is shocking. He said on Twitter that scientists will find a clear global warming fingerprint on the heat wave, with the exact influence of global warming linked with how hot it gets.

“And the hotter it gets,” he said, “the larger the attribution will be.”

He knows, even before it happens, that scientists will find a global warming fingerprint on this heatwave – cos the hotter it gets, the larger the attribution will be. So we don’t really need science, do we, when looking at extraordinary heatwaves like this, because the scientists are sure that it was the climate crisis wot dunnit, even before said extraordinary events are over.

OK, enough of the funnies. A formal attribution study is currently in progress, analysis to be completed by scientists at World Weather Attribution:

Scientists with World Weather Attribution have already launched a study to identify how global warming intensified the Pacific Northwest heat wave, with initial results expected in early July, said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate scientist with Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who has co-authored several previous climate attribution studies.

That research could help explain a worrying trend. In some regions, like northwestern Europe, heat waves in the last 20 years have become warmer about twice as fast as many climate models project, “and we don’t know why,” he said.

Catch the last paragraph? Climate models fail to explain why maximum daytime temperatures in recent heatwaves have been so high. I’ve pointed this out before:

In the Netherlands the observed increase in hot extremes is much larger than the modeled increase. This is a well-known problem (Min et al, 2013, Sippel et al, 2016) but the cause has not yet been elucidated.

In the Northwest heatwave for instance, previous records have been completely obliterated. A regional secular warming trend of a degree or two cannot explain these extremes. It has to be down to weather and that means meteorology: dynamics, not thermodynamics (global warming). In order to attribute these extreme events to global warming (thermodynamical influence), you also have to explain how dynamical influences have been so altered by generalised global warming that they are capable of producing such ‘unprecedented’ extremes in temperature. You also have to be very careful to eliminate other possible contributory factors to extreme temperatures such as preceding drought conditions, land use changes and urbanisation. So, I’ll wait until the formal attribution study is published by WWA and then comment.

Photo credit: Inside Climate News

Addendum: Event definition

WWA have an article entitled ‘Pathways and Pitfalls in extreme event attribution’. They point out that the definition of the extreme event is very important in determining the result of the attribution. Defining the event is very much a choice of the people doing the analysis.

Defining the event turned out to be both much harder and more important than we thought when we started attribution science. As an example: the first published extreme event attribution study analysed the extremely hot summer of 2003 in Europe (Stott et al, 2004). It took as event definition a European-wide seasonally averaged temperature, whereas the impacts had been tens of thousands of deaths in the 10-day hottest period in cities. A large-scale event definition like a continental and seasonal average has the advantage that climate models can represent it better and the signal-to-noise ratio is usually better than a local, short time scale definition. However, it is not the event that caused the damage and in WWA we try to relate our attribution question to the impacts, so we usually choose a definition of the event that corresponds as closely as possible to the impacts.

It’s almost certain that WWA will choose to define this extreme event only with reference to extreme daytime temperatures in the regional Pacific Northwest, but it’s a fact that record low temperatures have also occurred in the east of the US as a result of the configuration of the jet stream. The two are dynamically linked. So in actual fact, the extreme weather might be said to be occurring across the entire continental US, not just in the Pacific Northwest.

Update: 6th July 2021

Cliff Mass has an excellent post here arguing convincingly why the NW Pacific heatwave was not due to global warming and was in fact a ‘black swan’ weather event. He also lays into those deliberately peddling misinformation about this heatwave for purely political ends:

Politicization and Miscommunication of Science
The inaccurate information being distributed about the origins of this heatwave is very disturbing.
Some of this is being done out of ignorance or laziness, but a few individuals are deceiving the public deliberately.   Science journalism is only a shadow of what it was decades past, and a number of scientists now see social activism as more important than the determination and communication of truth.
Our nation has made costly mistakes when the truth was twisted for political reasons, such as for the Iraq war, when our nation spent trillions of dollars and initiated a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people based on misinformation about non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
We are now making similar mistakes with global warming, with politically inspired misinformation slowing realistic and life-saving steps, such as thinning our forests and restoring natural fire, or proceeding rapidly with nuclear energy.  Hyping global warming puts unrealistic and unnecessary fear into the hearts of our fellow citizens.  Unconscionable.  Global warming is an issue we can deal with, but only if truthful, factual, and science-based information is provided to decision-makers and the nation’s citizens.
I have spent my life trying to understand the weather and climate of our region and it is so frustrating that the media (e.g., KNKX public radio, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Stranger) and local politicians (such as our governor) have placed such a low priority on providing accurate information regarding climate change and other environmental challenges.  
They have put political agendas ahead of truth and we are all the worst for it.

Couldn’t agree more. This is what we are up against and it’s going to get worse.


  1. Confirmation that the NW Pacific heatwave is part of a much wider meteorological phenomenon, involving both hot and cold extremes. How does this fit in with the narrative of generalised warming?

    “Just days after Boston hit a record 100 degrees, the city set a new record low high temperature for July 3, according to the National Weather Service.

    The high in Boston Saturday was 60 degrees, inching past the previous low of 61 degrees recorded on this date in 1914.

    On that same date — July 3, 1914 – Worcester also hit a new low temperature of 61 degrees. That record was shattered Saturday when the high temperature was 57, according to the National Weather Service.

    The temperature recordings are preliminary, until the day’s temperatures are officially logged at midnight, said Torry Gaucher, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norton.

    Hartford and Providence barely missed beating the record for the coolest high temps for the date, with both cities recording 62 degrees Saturday. The record for Hartford was 61 degrees and the record in Providence was 60 degrees. Those records were set in 1914, as well.”


  2. It’s out! The rapid attribution study has been published by WWA. I don’t have cause for much mirth nowadays but this made me giggle:

    Main findings
    ● Based on observations and modeling, the occurrence of a heatwave with
    maximum daily temperatures (TXx) as observed in the area 45–52 ºN, 119–123
    ºW, was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.
    ● The observed temperatures were so extreme that they lie far outside the range of
    historically observed temperatures. This makes it hard to quantify with
    confidence how rare the event was. In the most realistic statistical analysis the
    event is estimated to be about a 1 in 1000 year event in today’s climate.
    ● There are two possible sources of this extreme jump in peak temperatures. The
    first is that this is a very low probability event, even in the current climate which
    already includes about 1.2°C of global warming — the statistical equivalent of
    really bad luck, albeit aggravated by climate change. The second option is that
    nonlinear interactions in the climate have substantially increased the probability
    of such extreme heat, much beyond the gradual increase in heat extremes that
    has been observed up to now. We need to investigate the second possibility
    further, although we note the climate models do not show it. All numbers below
    assume that the heatwave was a very low probability event that was not caused
    by new nonlinearities.
    ● With this assumption and combining the results from the analysis of climate
    models and weather observations, an event, defined as daily maximum
    temperatures (TXx) in the heatwave region, as rare as 1 in a 1000 years would
    have been at least 150 times rarer without human-induced climate change.
    ● Also, this heatwave was about 2°C hotter than it would have been if it had
    occurred at the beginning of the industrial revolution (when global mean
    temperatures were 1.2°C cooler than today).

    Thanks WWA; I can see it’s going to be fun dissecting your analysis.


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