Californians sweated it out amid a record-breaking heat wave entering its 10th day Friday that has helped fuel deadly wildfires and pushed energy supplies to the brink of daily power outages.
The West’s historic, multi-year drought is threatening water supply, food production and electricity generation. It has drained reservoirs at incredible rates and fueled one of the most extreme wildfire seasons the region has ever experienced.
With more than a million acres burned fairly early in the fire season, California is entering uncharted territory as the record dry conditions that have fueled so much destruction will soon combine with seasonal winds that fire officials fear will bring unprecedented dangers.
Officials have attributed warming temperatures and worsening drought to the explosive growth of fires, mostly in the mountains of Northern California, this summer.
California, struggling to balance its clean energy push with the need to boost tight power supplies and avoid rolling blackouts, will lean more on fossil fuels in coming weeks to keep the power on if scorching heatwaves stretch its grid.
The Golden State, which has among the world’s most aggressive environmental policies, faces a potential supply shortfall of up to 3,500 megawatts during peak demand hours in the coming weeks. That is about 2.6 million households worth of electricity supply.
As crews continue to combat wildfires in Northern California, the southern part of the state is preparing for extreme heat and elevated fire danger.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued an excessive heat warning across portions of Southern California’s high desert, with the Apple and Lucerne valleys preparing for temperatures that could climb as high as 120 degrees by the weekend — potentially the hottest of the year so far.
The record-breaking heat wave baking the West Coast is another painful sign that climate change is here, and we have to adapt.
The Pacific Northwest has been sizzling, with conditions forecasters have described as unprecedented and life-threatening. Portland, Ore., hit 113 degrees Monday, breaking the previous all-time high of 112 degrees, set Sunday. About 100 miles to the south, in Eugene, the U.S. track and field Olympic trials were halted Sunday afternoon, and spectators were asked to evacuate the stadium, due to the extreme heat.
Fear of contaminating precious local water sources is one way devastating wildfires continue to be felt in communities in Butte County, where the debris of burnt homes from recent fires sits near a watershed used by many in Northern California.
On August 14, 2018, Joshua Novacheck, a 30-year-old research engineer for the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, was presenting the most important study of his nascent career. He couldn’t have known it yet, but things were about to go very wrong.
California, which imposed rolling blackouts during an oppressive heat wave on two days last month, on Tuesday extended the lives of four aging natural gas-powered generating plants it has been seeking to retire for a decade.
State officials threw a lifeline to four fossil fueled power plants along the Southern California coast, deciding the facilities are still needed to provide reliable electricity even as they contribute to the climate crisis.
Tuesday’s vote by the State Water Resources Control Board to let the gas plants keep operating past the end of this year followed brief rolling blackouts over two evenings last month, as a heat wave caused air conditioning demand to soar, and California found itself short on electricity supplies.