West bakes, East deluged: A summer of extremes

The Western US is facing unprecedented heat. The East Coast has been battered by deadly floods and tropical storms. Climate scientists say both are related to a warming planet.


National News

August 24, 2021 - 10:13 AM

Structures and vehicles are piled up against a bridge over Trace Creek on August 23, 2021 in Waverly, Tennessee. Heavy rains on Sunday caused flash flooding in the area, leaving at least 22 people dead and more than two dozen missing. Photo by (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/TNS)

As the Western U.S. bakes and burns under an unprecedented heat dome, Henri leaves a deluged East Coast staggering after a summer of deadly floods and record-setting tropical storms. Climate scientists say one is due to the other and both come against the backdrop of a warming planet. 

The high pressure that got stuck across the West causing drought and fire actually created the conditions for low-pressure-driven storms in the East. So while July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, it was the sixth-wettest in U.S. records going back 127 years, according to the National Centers for Environment Information. 

Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group, said heat in both the Pacific and the Atlantic has helped strengthen large high pressure systems. In the West, this has added to the drought and wildfires; in the East, it has steered tropical systems up the coast and kept the region warm and moist. In between has been a low-pressure trough that has kept the rain falling across the central and eastern U.S.

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