Could you tell me about the heat wave?

Q: The news said the west coast of the North America is really hot now. Could you tell me about the heat wave?

A: The Pacific Northwest, which includes British Columbia (Canada), Washington and Oregon (USA) is, as a region, generally cool and wet. Due to this, we don’t tend to get extreme heat, and our cities are not built for it. Rather, most of our buildings are designed to RETAIN heat, to keep us warm in the winters. We also do not tend to have home air conditioning in this area, and even many of our businesses and public offices are not air conditioned.

I am living just outside of Seattle, and Seattle is the LEAST air conditioned city in the US. Many of our buildings are of historical significance, and many are just plain old. It’s also important to note that the type of ac unit commonly used in Japan (ductless ac) is not common in the US. In addition, renters cannot make changes to a building, so it is not possible for us to add ac if we rent an apartment or office.

Portland, which is just a few hours south of me, in Oregon, is the 3rd least air conditioned city in the country. MANY shops in Portland are in old, beautiful buildings. But these buildings get HOT! Many shops, restaurants, libraries and offices had to close completely, because it was too hot inside for their employees.

Even many of our public buildings, like libraries, are in historical buildings, and often close down on very hot days in the summer. In the past we did not have such hot days, but climate change is very obvious to us here in the PNW.

Recently we suffered a 4 day heat wave that felt like hell on Earth. It was so intensely hot that buildings warped, roads buckled and broke, and rail road tracks warped out of shape. The full death toll isn’t known yet, so at this point we can only say that over 700 people have died across the region (mostly in BC). Many deaths were related to heat illness, but others were a result of people trying to escape the heat. Many people drowned in the local lakes and rivers. In addition to the human deaths, pets, livestock, and even wild animals died.

Across the region, things like electric fans, window mounted ac units, ice cream/popsicles and even ice were completely sold out. People were desperate to cool themselves and their families. Some cities set up “cooling centers” where people could come and sit for a while, and try to recover from the heat. The temperatures broke records all across this region – Seattle experienced the hottest June temperatures on record!

In my area, the high temperature was 110° F, but in Portland, some areas reached 115° F. Our normal high for this time of year is usually about 90° F, and our regular average temperature is typically 75° F. Other areas of the country see high temperatures on a regular basis, but these areas are typically fully air conditioned, and have used different building methods. For example, Arizona is a hot state, so houses there are built with materials to keep the heat out. Since we are typically cooler, our homes are built to keep the heat IN. Many people (myself included) experienced temperatures inside our homes that were even hotter than outside!


Q: ニュースで話題の北米、西海岸が猛暑について教えて。

A: カナダのブリティシュコロンビア、米国ワシントン、オレゴンを含む米国北西部太平洋地域は、概して涼しく、湿度が高いのね。このため、酷暑にはなりにくく、暑さに対応した都市設計になっていないの。むしろ私たちの建物は冬に暖かくするため、熱を「保持する」するように建てられているの。この地域では家庭にエアコンがないことが多くて、会社や店舗、役所の多くはエアコンがないのよ。