Extreme Heat and Rising Temperatures: A Look at the Unprecedented Weather Events in the U.S.
After an intense and historic heat wave that persisted throughout July, scorching the U.S. Southwest and causing discomfort for residents, relief is finally on the horizon as the monsoon rains arrive late.
However, last Saturday, the desert city experienced its 30th consecutive day of temperatures surpassing 110 F, breaking the previous record of 18 days set back in 1974.
Fortunately, this week we see a slight reprieve as the overnight low at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport dropped below 90 F (32.2 C) for the first time in 16 days, providing some relief to residents once the sun sets.
The high temperatures are also expected to ease in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and even in Death Valley, California, where a forecasted high of 122 F (50 C) on Saturday will lower to 113 F (45 C) by Tuesday, accompanied by a slight chance of rain.
Additionally, parts of the San Joaquin Valley in California were bracing for triple-digit heat from Saturday through Monday, as reported by the National Weather Service in Hanford, California.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County faced a potential fire weather risk due to gusty, late-afternoon winds on Saturday and Sunday, as warned by the weather service in Los Angeles. The neighboring valleys, lower mountains, and desert areas were also expected to experience hot and dry conditions.
In Riverside County, a wildfire in the community of Aguanga, located about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of San Diego, prompted evacuation orders for over 1,300 residents, with an additional 1,400 facing evacuation warnings. Authorities reported that the fire, known as the Bonny Fire, had consumed 3.2 square miles (8.3 square kilometers) and was only about 5% contained. During the incident, one firefighter was reported to have been injured.
The heatwave is not only affecting humans but also wildlife. In Burbank, California, police discovered a bear cooling off in a Jacuzzi behind a home on Friday. The incident occurred approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Los Angeles near the Verdugo Mountains. Local authorities released a video of the bear and advised residents to secure their food and garbage to avoid further encounters.
Interestingly, the Southwest saw a decline in heat starting Wednesday night when Phoenix experienced its first major monsoon storm of the season, which typically begins on June 15. Although not all parts of the greater Phoenix area received rainfall from the storm, certain eastern suburbs encountered high winds, swirling dust, and localized downpours of up to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of precipitation.
Over the weekend, storms are expected to gradually increase in strength.
Climate scientists have calculated that July is likely to become the hottest month on record globally, possibly reaching the highest temperatures witnessed in human civilization. The extreme heat has now moved to the eastern part of the U.S., with soaring temperatures spreading from the Midwest to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, where some places are experiencing their hottest days of the year so far.
These new heat records are just a glimpse of the extreme weather events happening across the U.S. this month, including flash floods in Pennsylvania and parts of the Northeast.
Authorities in Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix, warned residents on social media about the risks of being outside in this record heat and offered safety tips.
The heat poses serious dangers to vulnerable populations, such as older adults, individuals with health issues, and those without access to air conditioning. It can be life-threatening for them.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, the most populous county with Phoenix as its main city, the public health department reported 25 confirmed heat-associated deaths as of July 21, with 249 more under investigation. Toxicological tests conducted during autopsies may lead to additional deaths being confirmed as heat-associated after weeks or months.
Last year, Maricopa County confirmed 425 heat-associated deaths, with more than half occurring in July.
Next week, other parts of Arizona are expecting high temperatures, with the agricultural desert community of Yuma anticipating highs ranging from 104 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C to 44.4 C), and Tucson expecting highs ranging from 99 to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 C to 43.9 C).
Las Vegas is forecasted to experience cooler temperatures, with highs dropping to 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 C) next Tuesday after a prolonged period of temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 C). Death Valley, which experienced a scorching 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.3 C) in mid-July, will also cool down but remain extremely hot, reaching 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 C).
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