In June 2021, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest reached as high as 121 degrees Fahrenheit and were blamed for hundreds of deaths. Many people, including scientists, were surprised by the intensity of the heat, which broke temperature records by a whopping 8 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. At the time, that level of heat was thought to be beyond the realm of possibility, even by climate models.
Now, research released Tuesday shows that such record-shattering heat waves - dubbed virtually impossible without climate change - can be predicted by existing climate models. The study, which models extreme scenarios for various cities, unlocks a new technique that could help communities better prepare for life-threatening heat waves in the future.