Large parts of North America are affected by heat waves and wildfire smoke

An insidious double whammy of heat and fire, compounded by the burning of oil and gas, scorched much of North America on Thursday, killing at least 15 people in the United States in the past few days, sickening countless others, closing schools and… Testing essential services unprepared for the new perils of summer.

It’s only June.

In the United States, a heat dome stretched from Texas to Florida to the tip of Missouri, sending the heat index — a combination of temperature and humidity — to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some places.

An immediate recovery was not in sight. By the weekend, temperatures are expected to rise 15 to 20 degrees above normal across much of the region.

And in the coming days, a new heat dome should form over California. Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley, a region where thousands of farm workers work long hours outdoors, are subject to excessive heat warnings, according to the Weather Service.

Hundreds of fires continued to burn across Canada, drawing 1,500 firefighters from around the world.

Air quality in Toronto was briefly the worst in the world as wildfire smoke from elsewhere in Canada blanketed the city, blowing quickly south and blanketing the eastern United States in toxic soup. In Washington, DC, the National Gallery closed its outdoor sculpture garden.due to air quality.

In the state of Nuevo León in northern Mexico, schools closed Thursday, about a month ahead of schedule, after temperatures hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Monterrey, the state capital. “In order to take care of the children, which is a priority, we have decided that it is not worth risking their health,” said Gov. Samuel García Sepúlveda.

Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and director of the Brown Institute for Environment and Society, said the week’s events embodied the “multiple stressors associated with human-caused climate change” that the United Nations, in its scientific panel on global warming, has warned about . “If ever there was a moment to stop and reassess our fossil fuel emissions trajectory, that moment is now,” she said.

Both extreme heat and wildfires are exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Not only do these emissions amplify heatwaves that can occur naturally, but they can also intensify the drought that triggers catastrophic wildfires.

Temperatures around the world hit their highest levels in decades in June, driven by two things: climate change caused by accumulated emissions of heat-trapping gases and the return of the natural climate pattern known as El Niño after three years. Forecasters believe this could lead to a multi-year period of extreme heat.

For nearly half of the United States, the forecast for the heat index, a measure of what the temperature actually feels like, fell into the “extreme caution” or “danger” categories. Humid air can prevent the body from cooling down efficiently because the air is so saturated that there is nowhere for moisture to evaporate from a person’s skin, which is necessary for cooling.

To make matters worse, overnight temperatures are expected to remain high in the South and Midwest this week, making it harder for the human body to cool down.

In downtown Jackson, Miss., where the heat index hit 113 on Thursday, workers replacing a sewer pipe took turns in the midday sun for 30 minutes, resting under a tree in between. “My advice to everyone is to get some shade,” said Cody Adams, an associate at Miller Pipeline, an infrastructure company. “Drink plenty of fluids before you go outside. It’s hot out here.”

Meteorologists said extremely dangerous heat stress in Jackson will continue through Saturday and warned of the risk of heat stroke from prolonged outdoor activity.

In Dallas, where the heat index was 103, workers were busy fixing air conditioners that were overheating and emitting hot air instead of cool. “Compressors are failing everywhere,” said Natalie Ortiz, owner of Alpha Heating & Cooling. By Thursday morning, she had replaced four times as many air conditioning compressors as she would spend the summer in a normal year.

“It’s not usual. Summer has only just begun,” she said.

While parts of Texas may finally return to near-normal temperatures this weekend, parts of south Texas and locations near the Gulf of Mexico will continue to experience oppressive temperatures through Sunday.

Heat-related deaths are notoriously difficult to explain accurately, as heat can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as kidney and heart disease. Nevertheless, the first figures on the victims began to be known.

In Webb County, Texas, one of the worst-hit parts of the country, the immediate death toll from the heat rose to 10 as of Thursday noon. In Laredo, which is part of Webb County, the heat index read 109 degrees on Thursday and is expected to hit Friday rise to 114 degrees.

According to the Health Ministry, Mexico has recorded at least 112 heat-related deaths so far this year, more than half of them in Nuevo León state. In comparison, only four heat-related deaths were recorded nationwide in the same period last year.

Temperatures in the city of Hermosillo, northwestern Mexico, are expected to hover around 109 degrees over the weekend after rising to 121 degrees on Sunday, among the highest temperatures recorded worldwide that day.

It was the third heat wave of the year in Mexico.

Dan Bilefsky contributed coverage from Montreal; Mary Beth Gahan of Dallas; Jimmie Gates of Jackson, Miss.; Delgar Erdenesanaa, Judson Jones, Anushka Patil, Elena Shao and Raymond Zhong from New York City; and Emiliano Rodriguez Mega and Simon Romero from Mexico City.

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