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

An unrelenting heat wave is moving slightly east across the Prairie provinces today and experts predict parts of Western Canada could again reach record-breaking high temperatures.

Environment Canada issues heat warnings for many parts of Western Canada

The heat dome that has saddled Alberta and Saskatchewan will continue to inch east, says Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips. (CBC)

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 and Manitoba, parts of the Northwest Territories 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. As of Wednesday evening, the warning expanded to cover much of Manitoba, and one alert for the Bulkey Valley and the Lakes District area in central B.C. was lifted. (CBC)

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 Grande 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.

Most of Manitoba was under a heat warning as of Wednesday evening. 

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

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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 well 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, indicated in red, is currently planted over Alberta, moving into Saskatchewan in a northeastern direction. (Fiona Odlum/CBC)

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)

Dangers of extreme heat

In some cases, the extreme temperatures have turned deadly. In B.C., at least 486 sudden deaths were reported over five days during the province's heat wave, the BC Coroners Service said Wednesday. 

It's too early to know how many of the deaths were "heat related" Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said Wednesday in a statement.

"It is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province," she said.

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.

With files from Anna Desmarais, Wallis Snowdon, Eva Uguen-Cse, Bethany Lindsay