Heat dome planted over Alberta and Saskatchewan as more record temperatures expected

An unrelenting heat wave is gradually moving east across the Prairie provinces Wednesday, and parts of western Canada could again reach record-breaking high temperatures.

Much of British Columbia, parts of the Northwest Territories and Manitoba and all of Alberta and Saskatchewan are under Environment Canada heat warnings.

To blame is what meteorologists have called a heat dome; ridges of high pressure hovering over the Prairies that create an effect much like a pressure cooker.

According to David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, the heat dome is “a long term kind of thing … this one has legs.” 

He says that as the heat wave moves east it will become less intense and likely won’t reach the eastern provinces.

“Winnipeg would be sort of the last major city to see this heat dome,” he said.

A heat wave warning is in effect in several provinces in Canada including all of Alberta and Saskatchewan. (CBC News)

Shattering record temperatures

Alberta broke 38 daily temperature records on Tuesday, according to Environment Canada, the hottest of those being 41.5 C in the Grand Prairie area, 40.7 C in the Beaverlodge area and and 39.3 C in the Drumheller area.

The province has had four straight days where it broke daily temperature records in what Phillips calls a “spectacular episode.”

Calgary neared its all-time high temperature record, hitting 36.3 C Tuesday. The hottest the city has ever been was 36.5 C, a record set in August 2018, according to Environment Canada.

Today’s high is expected to reach 35 C in Calgary, 37 C in Edmonton and 39 C in Grande Prairie.

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Parts of western and central Manitoba, from Dauphin up to Lynn Lake and across to Norway House region are now under a heat wave.

That could expand into southern Manitoba thanks to high pressure, said CBC meteorologist John Sauder.

A new Canadian temperature record was set on Tuesday in the town of Lytton, B.C., which reached 49.6 C.

B.C. continues to see the highest temperatures in Canada — with temperatures in cities like Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops remaining in the low 40s — though Phillips says temperatures will drop slightly.

“My sense is by this time at the end of the weekend, it will pretty will have passed through,” he said. “The warm temperatures will linger, but not as excruciatingly.”

The Northwest Territories and Yukon have broken 20 daily temperature records so far. It was 38.1 C in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded in the region.

The heat dome (in red) is currently planted over Alberta, moving into Saskatchewan in a north eastern direction. (Fiona Odlum/CBC News)

Booking hotel rooms for AC relief

The city of Calgary says water consumption is higher than the city’s five year average, and advised people to be mindful of their water use, especially when watering lawns.

Electricity use in Alberta also surged this week, pushing the province past a summer usage record of 10,822 megawatts, set in 2019.

Some Calgarians are even checking into hotels to avoid the heat in their homes and take advantage of hotel pools. 

According to Elena Menk, associate director of sales for the Hotel Arts in downtown Calgary, hotel visits are up. 

“We’ve seen an increase in bookings about 40 per cent in the last seven days,” she said. “People are booking just to get some AC going.”

Steve Kerr, an Edmonton-based regional sales manager at Service Experts Heating and Air Conditioning, said this summer is his “busiest season I can ever remember in my 20 years.”

Calgarians seeking air conditioned hotel rooms and time in the pool are causing a 40 per cent increase in booking at the Hotel Arts in the city’s downtown. (Julie Debeljak/CBC Calgary)

Dangers of extreme heat

In some cases, the extreme temperatures have turned deadly. On Tuesday, Vancouver police said they had responded to more than 100 sudden deaths since the heat wave set in.

“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said in a news release.

As of late Tuesday, there were 16 heat-related visits to emergency departments in Calgary and Edmonton.

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Staying cool in extreme heat

Those living in the areas affected by the heat wave are being advised to take certain precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

Here are some tips to stay safe in extreme heat:

  • Avoid the direct sun as much as possible.
  • Plan to spend time in a cool, or air-conditioned place, such as a library, a mall or even a movie theatre if you can.
  • Drink a lot of water, even before you feel thirsty.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise.
  • Avoid sunburn and wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.

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