Nature Matters: PNW Heat Dome – What Caused It, and What’s In Store For The Future?

In late June 2021, the Pacific Northwest experienced a heat wave of historical proportions. Several locations broke their all-time high-temperature record, often by several degrees. Canada set a new national high-temperature record of 121 degrees, Washington set a new state record of 120 and Oregon tied its previous all-time high of 119 degrees. The impacts of the heat were profound and tragic on humans and the natural environment, with hundreds of people losing their lives across the region. In this talk, we will break down the progression of meteorological factors that caused this extraordinary heat wave. The most influential meteorological factor was a massive, record-breaking area of hot high pressure above the Earth’s surface centered over central British Columbia. The feature, also known as a “heat dome”, developed and strengthened over the course of several days due to a complex combination of weather events spanning the North Pacific. We will look at how the strength, location, and timing of this massive ridge of high pressure contributed to the extreme heat experienced at the surface through several mechanisms and why this event was so much more severe than previous extreme heat waves. The state-of-the-science understanding of the role that global warming played in the event and what this heat wave tells us about the risk of future extreme heat across the Pacific Northwest will also be discussed.

Presented by Dr. Paul Loikith

Dr. Paul Loikith is an Associate Professor of weather and climate science in the Department of Geography at Portland State University, where he directs the Portland State Climate Science Lab. Dr. Loikith has a BS in Meteorology and a PhD in Atmospheric Science from Rutgers University. Prior to joining the PSU faculty in 2015, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Dr. Loikith's research focuses broadly on the atmospheric drivers of extreme weather and climate events at regional to global scales and how these drivers are influenced by a warming climate.

Doors to the Lovell Showroom open at 6pm with food and beverages available via the Taproom window. All ages welcome and never a cover!

The Thursday Talk program is a reoccurring community lecture series every Thursday, October through May. Thank you to our 2023 Partners –

  • 1st Thursdays – Ales & Ideas w/ Clatsop Community College
  • 2nd Thursdays – Wit & Wisdom w/ Philosofarian
  • 3rd Thursdays – Thursday Night Talk w/ Clatsop County Historical Society
  • 4th Thursdays – Nature Matters w/ Lewis & Clark National Parks, National Parks Service, and North Coast Watershed Association

WHERE: Fort George Brewery, 1483 Duane St Astoria, OR 97103 Map