As Canada sweltered under a persistent bout of intense heat, weather warnings were issued Thursday from coast to coast to coast.
Southern parts of Ontario and Quebec are entering the third day of a multi-day heat event that Environment Canada has warned could make it feel like 40 degrees Celsius when the humidity is factored in.
People fled stuffy apartments for air-conditioned food courts in Toronto’s downtown, where the agency forecasted a Thursday high of 30 degrees, feeling like 37.
“It’s hot and (my apartment) is very small so I come here and I feel fresh with the air conditioning and it feels good,” said 58-year-old Valia Ruano, inside the Eaton Centre food court.
On the other side of Yonge Street, a custodian at a neighbouring food court said she had noticed an uptick in the number of visitors during the heat wave.
“It’s too hot outside and people need a break,” said Carnen Macias. “People come in, freshen up in the bathroom and maybe grab some ice cream on their way out.”
Temperatures are expected to ease soon in some areas.
Environment Canada meteorologist Steven Flisfeder said a cold front will pass through Ontario and Quebec on Thursday causing risk of sever thunderstorms.
“In the wake of the cold front, we expect temperatures to moderate towards near normal,” he said.
“The next coming days will see a return to normal temperatures.”
Flisfeder said sever thunderstorm watches have been issued for areas north of The Greater Toronto Area through central and eastern Ontario and through much of southern Quebec.
A heat warning was also in effect in British Columbia, from the north to central coast and in the Fraser Canyon area east of Vancouver, where daytime highs between 30 and 35 degrees are expected through Sunday.
A similar warning was in place for the Fort Liard and Fort Providence regions of the Northwest Territories, where temperatures are expected to rise to low 30s by Friday or Saturday and into next week.
Inuvik, south of the Beaufort Sea in the Northwest Territories, remained under a heat warning after the temperature hit 33 degrees on Tuesday, a local daily temperature record, according to Environment Canada records dating back to 1957. A restaurant in town closed due to the heat and a harpoon making workshop was postponed at a local drop-in centre servicing homeless and underprivileged people.
On the East Coast, Environment Canada says a period of similarly hot temperatures that began Thursday could stretch into the weekend in New Brunswick, as well as the Churchill Falls region of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Scientists have warned that 2023 could see record heat as human-caused climate change, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil, warmed the atmosphere. They also noted that La Nina, the natural cooling of the ocean that had acted as a counter, was giving way to El Nino, the reverse phenomenon marked by warming oceans.
Earth’s average temperature hit an unofficial record high of 17.18 Celsius on Wednesday, matching a record set the day before, and surpassing the previous record set on Monday, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer. The series of grim milestones are not an official government record, but the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated it would take the figures into consideration for its official calculations.
The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization said in May there was a 98 per cent likelihood that one of the next five years, or the five-year period as a whole, would be the warmest on record.
Environment Canada is warning of elevated risks for heat-related illnesses and deteriorating air quality. It urges people to drink water before feeling thirsty, check on the elderly and watch for the effects of heat illness such as fainting, swelling, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Researchers have repeatedly noted that people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, the elderly, people of colour and low-income households with little access to air conditioning and outdoor parks bear the brunt of heat waves.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2023.