Unprecedented Heat Wave Sweeps Across Southern and Western U.S., Breaking Records and Threatening Lives

Heat wave pushes temperatures to record highs in southern and western US

Mid-July marks the hottest time of the year for many in the Lower 48 states, but the current heat wave sweeping across the southern and western US is breaking records and pushing temperatures into uncharted territory. At least 10 states are expected to experience triple-digit temperatures over the weekend, with cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Fresno, and Salt Lake City approaching all-time record highs.

As of Friday, nearly 115 million Americans are under heat alerts, spanning from South Florida to the interior of Washington state. This number is expected to increase as the hot weather peaks and covers more territory. The heat wave has already set longevity records from Florida to Arizona and shows no signs of easing.

El Paso has experienced a record-breaking 27 consecutive days at or above 100 degrees, while Phoenix is on track to reach 15 consecutive days at or above 110 degrees, closing in on the record of 18 days. Miami has also reached a record-breaking 33 consecutive days with heat indexes of at least 100.

The Southeast, Gulf Coast, and southern Plains are facing extraordinary heat indexes due to tropical levels of humidity. On Thursday, Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, observed a heat index of 126 degrees, the highest in the state’s history. In the Southwest, where the heat is dry, temperatures have already surpassed 110 degrees and could reach 120 or higher over the weekend. The air temperature in Death Valley, California, may even reach 130 degrees, matching or exceeding the highest reliably measured reading worldwide.

The National Weather Service has issued warnings for the potential of heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities. This extreme heat wave is occurring during the hottest period for the planet in modern records.

The heat wave is expected to continue as long as the stagnant high-pressure system remains in place over the southern US. The intensity of the heat dome is projected to peak this weekend, and there are no signs of it dissipating anytime soon. Abnormally hot weather is expected to persist for at least another week.

Record-breaking temperatures are forecasted across California and the Southwest. Las Vegas is expected to hit 118 degrees on Sunday, breaking the city’s all-time high of 117 degrees. In the Central Valley of California, temperatures will range between 105 and 112 degrees, potentially breaking daily records. Salt Lake City also has a chance to challenge its all-time high of 107 degrees on Sunday. Death Valley is forecasted to reach between 127 and 132 degrees, near the modern record of 130.

Phoenix is facing potentially record-breaking temperatures as well. It may approach records of 117 and 118 degrees on Saturday and Sunday and has a 20 percent chance of hitting 120, according to the Weather Service. The city is expected to have its hottest week on record by early next week.

High temperatures are also expected in the southern Plains, with most places in Texas ranging between 102 and 108 degrees on Friday. The combination of heat and humidity is making the conditions even more extreme, with heat indexes reaching 110 degrees or higher. South Florida is also experiencing high heat indexes, particularly due to a marine heat wave that is causing high levels of moisture in the air.

Both dry heat and humidity can pose dangers to health, with dry heat leading to dehydration and humidity preventing sweat from evaporating to cool the body. Minimizing outdoor exposure is recommended, especially for vulnerable populations.

Heat is deadlier than tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods combined in the United States. As the heat wave continues to break records, it is crucial for individuals to take precautions and stay safe during this extreme weather event.