It’s almost as if the entire East Coast has shifted south.
Summers in Portland, Maine, are now almost as hot as summers in Boston were for much of the 20th century.
Summers in Boston have come to resemble 20th-century summers in New York. New York, similarly, has come to resemble Philadelphia, which in turn has become hotter than Washington, D.C., or Atlanta were only a few decades ago. Summers in Washington and Atlanta are hotter than summers in Tampa, Fla., used to be.
There is a similar story to tell in the Mountain West, a region that has been enduring a heat wave in recent days. Summers today have come to resemble summers of the past in hotter places:
These are the cascading effects of climate change, and they are getting worse.
The data I’m showing you here is based on 10-year averages for July temperatures. I picked this longer time frame to avoid conflating normal year-to-year fluctuations — which have always existed and always will — with the effects of climate change. If anything, these 10-year averages understate how hot summer has become, because climate change continues to exert a small effect every year.
The summer of 2021 appears to be on pace to be the hottest on record. Last month was the hottest June since at least the 1890s (when federal records begin). The temperature reached 116 degrees in Portland, Ore., at one point and 121 in British Columbia, Canada. Climate researchers concluded that those levels of heat would have been “virtually impossible without climate change.”
This month has also been brutally hot in many places. The western U.S. is experiencing its fourth heat wave in less than two months, with temperatures in Montana and Idaho topping 100 degrees this week. On July 9, Death Valley, Calif., reached 130 degrees, matching the hottest temperature recorded on Earth (save for one 1913 reading that scientists doubt).
Numbers aside, the extreme heat is creating situations that are a mix of unnatural and horrific. Dozens of wildfires are burning across the West (as you can see in this tracker). Larger wildfires, like the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon, can sometimes create their own weather systems, spawning lightning from towers of smoke or generating a fire whirl, a vortex of air and flame that looks like a fiery tornado.
“Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do,” Marcus Kauffman of Oregon’s forestry department said. “In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
Day to day, the summer heat in much of the U.S. is unpleasant. Boston is not supposed to feel like New York, and Philadelphia isn’t supposed to feel like Atlanta.
But the heat is not merely unpleasant. It can be downright dangerous, and the future is looking increasingly dangerous, too.
For more: “I do not want this to be a column arguing for despair,” Ezra Klein of Times Opinion recently wrote. “But to the immediate question — how to force the political system to do enough, fast enough, to avert mass suffering — I don’t know the answer, or even if there is an answer.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Other Big Stories
To reach the unvaccinated, engage with skeptics — and pay them to get a shot, Ross Douthat argues.
Loneliness and isolation are making American life feel dystopian, says Michelle Goldberg.
Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times Opinion columnist, is taking a leave to consider running for governor of Oregon.
Red carpet: Here are the looks from the Cannes Film Festival. Heels are back.
Networking: To get a new job, have you tried … TikTok?
Play ball: These pitchers’ spin rates fell most after a crackdown on sticky substances.
Advice from Wirecutter: Stop washing wine glasses by hand — they’re safer in the dishwasher.
Lives Lived: In the 1970s, the specialized field of health care known as wilderness medicine was in its infancy. Then Dr. Paul Auerbach showed up. He died at 70.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A look at U.S. Olympic stars
The Tokyo Olympics start Friday, and we will have a lot of coverage in the coming weeks. For starters, we want to tell you about the three sports that will feature heavily in television coverage, partly because of the strength of the U.S. teams.
Gymnastics: The U.S. women are favorites to win the team event for a third consecutive time, led by Simone Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. If she can win the all-around competition again, she will be the first woman to repeat as the Olympic champion in half a century.
The newcomer Sunisa Lee is “the one gymnast not named Biles who is most likely to win gold in an individual event,” Juliet Macur writes in The Times.
Swimming: Like Biles, the swimmer Katie Ledecky also has a claim on being the world’s best athlete. She won five medals in 2016, and could win six more this year — three in events for which she holds the world record.
The sprinter Caeleb Dressel — the “next Michael Phelps,” as ESPN says — is the favorite in his three individual races. This year’s U.S. team is also unusually young, with 11 teenagers — the most since 1996.
Track and Field: Allyson Felix is racing in her fifth Olympics. If she wins a medal, it will be her 10th, matching Carl Lewis’s record for the most won by an American track and field athlete.
The marquee event may be the women’s 400-meter hurdles, with two American favorites: Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad. They have raced each other three times since 2019, The Washington Post notes, and the winner has set a new world record each time. — Tom Wright-Piersanti, Morning editor
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were flowing, following and wolfing. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pickle juice (five letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. Roger Cohen, The Times’s Paris bureau chief, received the Legion of Honor, the French government’s highest award.