An “extreme heat wave” is affecting tens of millions of Americans this weekend, with record temperatures in the Central and Northeast and a wildfire spreading alarmingly across California.
The “Oak Fire” broke out Friday in Mariposa County, near Yosemite National Park and its giant sequoias, and has already burned more than 2,500 acres, destroying 10 properties and damaging five others, according to a Saturday bulletin from the Forest Department. and California Fire Protection.
Several roads were closed and the evacuation of many areas was ordered, while the fire, of “extreme activity” and fought by some 400 firefighters, was not fully controlled on Saturday, according to the same source.
According to University of California climatologist Daniel Swain, the fire “spread in almost all directions,” “in a context of high fuel load and extreme drought.”
“The series of relatively small, non-destructive wildfires that have affected California so far this season appear to be over,” he added on Twitter.
The west of the country has already experienced wildfires of exceptional magnitude and intensity in recent years, a trend that scientists attribute to global warming.
– Tornado –
Witnesses posted images on social networks of a huge and impressive whirlwind of thick smoke rising from the forest, like a tornado, a dangerous phenomenon that can fuel fire.
This fire is one of the most dramatic consequences of the heat wave hitting the United States.
“Extreme heat will continue in the central United States and spread into the Northeast this weekend, with numerous records expected today (Saturday) and Sunday throughout the region,” the National Weather Service (NWS) announced. ).
Higher temperatures will increase the threat of “violent weather events” such as hail, winds and tornadoes in the upper Midwest, it added.
The sweltering heat was particularly felt in the capital, Washington, where temperatures were approaching the symbolic 100-degree Fahrenheit (37-38 Celsius) bar.
New York was not spared, with temperatures approaching 35 degrees. The temperature could also reach 43 degrees in parts of Utah (west), Arizona (south) and the Northeast, according to the NWS.
– State of emergency –
In Boston, whose mayor Michelle Wu declared a “state of heat emergency,” with municipal cooling zones open and swimming pools open for longer, the thermometer is expected to reach 37 degrees on Sunday.
This week, President Joe Biden once again underlined the “clear and immediate danger” posed by climate change, “an existential threat to (the) nation and the world.” But his room for maneuver is limited in Congress and the Supreme Court.
Several heat waves have taken place in 2022 around the world, such as in July in Western Europe and in India in March-April. Their increase is a clear sign of climate change, according to scientists.
In June 2021, an unusually intense “heat dome” wreaked havoc across the West Coast of the United States and Canada, killing more than 500 people and sparking massive wildfires, with temperatures approaching 50 degrees.