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Canadian inferno: northern heat exceeds worst-case climate models

Canadian inferno: northern heat exceeds worst-case climate models

Scientists fear heat domes in North America and Siberia indicate a new dimension to the global crisis

If you were drawing up a list of possible locations for hell on Earth before this week, the small mountain village of Lytton in Canada would probably not have entered your mind.

Few people outside British Columbia had heard of this community of 250 people. Those who had were more likely to think of it as bucolic. Nestled by a confluence of rivers in the forested foothills of the Lillooet and Botanie mountain ranges, the municipal website boasts: “Lytton is the ideal location for nature lovers to connect with incredible natural beauty and fresh air freedom.”

Over the past seven days, however, the village has made headlines around the world for a freakishly prolonged and intense temperature spike that turned the idyll into an inferno.

The US president, Joe Biden, and Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, have warned worried populations to brace for more. Shocked climate scientists are wondering how even worst-case scenarios failed to predict such furnace-like conditions so far north.

Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said the recent extreme weather anomalies were not represented in global computer models that are used to project how the world might change with more emissions. The fear is that weather systems might be more frequently blocked as a result of human emissions. “It is a risk – of a serious regional weather impact triggered by global warming – that we have underestimated so far,” he said.

In Lytton, it felt as if the weather itself had stagnated. Trapped in a vast heat dome that enveloped western Canada and the north-western US, temperatures had nowhere to go but up.

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