This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Late last June, farmers in Walla Walla, Washington, noticed something odd happening to their onions. Walla Walla, an oasis in the middle of the state’s high desert, is bursting with vineyards, wheat fields and acres of the city’s eponymous sweet onions. As temperatures climbed above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then above 110 degrees, the oversized onions began to burn, pale blisters forming underneath their papery skins. When the temperature reached 116, the onions started cooking, their flesh dissolving into mush.
Four miles away is the Washington State Penitentiary. It’s one of the country’s oldest prisons, established in the 1880s, before Washington achieved statehood. In June 2021, over 2,000 people were incarcerated in its large concrete buildings. In the Hole — the name incarcerated people use for the solitary confinement unit — the air conditioning had s... Read more