Floods, fires, thunderstorms and a dangerous heat wave that affects a third of the population: The United States was hit hard on Tuesday by weather-related catastrophes.
A series of slow-motion disasters is sweeping across the country in early summer, with warnings of misery in the coming months in some areas.
About 120 million people were under some form of counseling as a heat wave scorched the Upper Midwest and Southeast.
“A high-pressure dome is expected to generate temperatures well above normal to record highs across the region today and tomorrow,” with heat rates “well into the triple digits in many locations,” the National Weather Service (NWS) said. ) said.
Parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio were warned to expect mercury to reach 43 degrees Celsius.
NWS meteorologist Alex Lamers said the high-pressure dome was triggering extreme events on its periphery.
“Often you have a very big heat wave and if you look around you will see storms and tornadoes, flash floods, extreme rains,” he told AFP.
The northern end of the heat dome, where high temperatures collided with cooler air, saw some violent thunderstorms on Monday.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power in the Midwest after storms hit the area.
This cold front was expected to bring more unstable weather, with hail and strong winds forecast.
Further west, dramatic photographs and videos published by the National Park Service showed the devastation wrought by flooding in Yellowstone, the country’s oldest national park.
The 8,900-square-kilometer park in Wyoming, home to the famous Old Faithful geyser, was closed Monday after a flooded river swept through roads and cut off a nearby community.
Rangers warned of “extremely dangerous conditions” and told anyone still in the park to leave.
“Measured flood levels in the Yellowstone River are beyond record levels,” the NPS said on its website.
“Preliminary assessments show that several sections of roads throughout the park have been washed away or covered in mud or rocks, and several bridges could be affected.”
The small community of Gardiner, which lies outside the park’s boundaries in Montana, has been cut off, with water and power to several properties, the NPS said.
There were also excessive heat warnings for parts of California and Arizona, which were hit by oven-like conditions over the weekend.
High temperatures, along with a long drought, are making seasonal wildfires worse.
Two large fires, each over 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares), continued to ravage New Mexico Tuesday.
Firefighters fighting the Black Fire and Hermits Peak are working to contain the blazes that are fed by extremely dry undergrowth.
New Mexico and much of the southwest were hit by a punishing drought that left rainfall levels below normal for years.
Dozens of other fires broke out across the region.
Wildfires are an expected part of the natural cycle, which helps remove dead plants and eliminate disease while promoting new growth.
But its size and ferocity have increased in recent years, firefighters say, as the effects of the crippling drought take hold.
“Dry conditions and gusty winds are expected to produce another day of elevated to critical fire weather conditions in parts of the southwest to central and southern High Plains,” the NWS said on its website.
Fire chiefs are warning that 2022 looks like a terrible year for wildfires.
“Given the fuel conditions, the fire conditions we’re talking about, I predict four, five, six very difficult months ahead of us,” Orange County, California Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said last week.
Scientists say that global warming, which is being driven primarily by humanity’s uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels, is making extreme weather events more likely.
Lamer of the National Weather Service said that while it is difficult to conclude that climate change is behind an individual episode, global warming is an underlying factor.
“Whatever weather event you’re looking for, there’s a combination of bad luck, the atmosphere has to be set up a certain way,” he said.
“But they all happen in the context of the climate, and basically climate change loads the data and makes more extreme outcomes more likely.”