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2021 Was a Year of “Weather Whiplash” in the West – Mother Jones

2021 Was a Year of “Weather Whiplash” in the West – Mother Jones

2021 Was a Year of “Weather Whiplash” in the West – Mother Jones

A cyclist in Phoenix, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Ross D. Franklin/AP

This story was first published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In September or October of 2021, as the Caldor Fire raged toward Lake Tahoe through eastern California’s drought-addled forests, staff at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort made a desperate bid to fend off the advancing flames: They aimed snowmaking machines at structures and cranked up the water-misting cannons to douse an area that hadn’t seen a lick of rain in months.

A mere 500 miles to the east, a trickle ran down the sandy Dirty Devil River’s broad sandy bed in eastern Utah. Then, a moisture-laden thunderstorm poured its load on the Henry Mountains and filled the arroyos to their brim. Over the course of hours, the Dirty Devil’s flow shot up to a churning 14,000 cubic feet per second—more than four times that of the nearby Colorado River—≠—overflowing the normally dry arroyo’s banks. Six feet of water rushed through Hanksville’s streets and parking lots, washing away cars and filling 500-gallon propane tanks. It also inundated homes and hotels.

This stark contrast is a perfect example of 2021 in West, where the devastating effects and deluges in neighboring countries were juxtaposed. But amid all the weather whiplash, there was one constant: Temperatures were above “normal” all year long.   

Phoenix, Arizona – June temperature was below 100 degrees for a majority of the days.

Number of people who died from heat-related causes in Washington between July 26 and August 31, 2021.


In 2020, the state will have a record number of heat-related deaths.

Number of heat-related fatalities in Multnomah County, Oregon, during the June “heat dome”; most of the victims were older, lived alone and lacked air conditioning, according to the county health department.

Number of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, Arizona between April 11 and November 1, 2021

The Greater Yellowstone region’s growing season has been extended by climate change for a greater number of weeks since 1950.

1.88 inches
Denver received the lowest amount of precipitation since 1872, when records began.

118 degrees Fahrenheit
The highest temperature recorded in Washington was at Dallesport on June 28th, the highest ever.

111 degrees Fahrenheit
On June 28, the temperature was at Porthill in Idaho.

56.77 inches
The amount of rain that fell in Quillayute (Washington) between Sept. 1 & Nov. 30, breaking the 1975 record of 51.81 inches.

2,261 to 3637
Estimated number (in California) of sequoias that have been killed by the KNP Complex fires in California in 2021.

1.76 inches
Amount of rain that fell in Cuba (New Mexico) on Sept. 30, a new monthly record.

80 cubic feet per minute
On Oct. 25, flow in the Rio Grande at Albuquerque is 350 cfs.

Number of homes that were destroyed by a central Montana wildfire in December 1.

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