The scorching heat wave sweeping across 15 states is an unprecedented weather event that is affecting more than 112 million people. The National Weather Service has issued heat alerts for these states, warning people to take precautions against the extreme heat. This heat wave is expected to break longstanding records, especially in the Southwest, and the duration of the event that’s set to continue well into next week increases public health dangers.
The Heat Wave’s Scope, Intensity, and Endurance
The heat wave is caused by an area of high pressure aloft, also known as a heat dome, that is moving into place over the Southwest and will influence a much broader area. The Southwest will see the longest-lasting impacts, and parts of Texas are coming off their hottest June on record. Alerts are up from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts, and include nearly all of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, California, and Arizona.
Health Dangers Posed by the Heat Wave
Extreme heat is the top weather-related killer during an average year in the U.S., according to the NWS. Heat waves can be extremely deadly, particularly when high temperatures are persistent and there is a lack of significant cooling at night. Heat waves are quiet killers, with deaths often going uncounted until well after an extreme weather event has subsided. To stay safe during heat waves, it’s essential to stay hydrated, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, and remain indoors in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible.
Cities in the Southwest Poised to Break Records
Cities in the Southwest that are synonymous with heat are poised to break daily, monthly, and potentially all-time high-temperature records during this event, as well as set milestones for the longest streak of exceptionally hot days. For example, Phoenix is on track to either tie or break its record of 18-straight days with highs of 110°F or above. The city may also break its record string of days with 90°F or above overnight low temperatures. Las Vegas may see its hottest temperature on record of 117°F tied or exceeded during this heat wave.
Climate Change and Heat Waves
Many studies show that heat waves are more likely, longer-lasting, and more intense as global average surface temperatures increase. The main cause of long-term climate change is human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, due to burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. New analysis from Climate Central shows that climate change is likely boosting the odds for the upcoming extreme heat in Arizona by at least a factor of four. Without climate change, certain heat waves would have been virtually impossible.
Take Action to Stay Safe During Heat Waves
To stay safe during heat waves, it’s essential to take action to protect yourself and your loved ones. Some practical tips include staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary drinks and alcohol, wearing loose-fitting and lightweight clothing, and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun. It’s also important to remain indoors in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. By taking these simple precautions, you can stay safe and healthy during heat waves and other extreme weather events.