While temperature records this spring have already fallen over large parts of the country, a potentially deadly heat wave will hit the southwestern United States in the coming days, warns the National Weather Service.
The latest heat wave will affect California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado over the next 24 hours before pushing east into Texas and the states of Central Plains.
Three-digit temperatures have been forecast in several states. Las Vegas is expected to reach 111 degrees F on Friday and Saturday. The peaks in Phoenix will be even warmer, with 113 on Saturday and Sunday, and 114 on Monday. Austin, Texas, can reach 107 over the weekend and Dallas can reach 105 on Sunday.
In total, it is estimated that 22 million people will be affected by the high temperatures over the next few days. On its website, the National Weather Service advises Phoenix residents to “avoid strenuous activity” and to “postpone / cancel outdoor activities” for the next few days.
The risk to human health from excessive heat is well documented. In 2020, Maricopa County, Ariz., Where Phoenix is located, recorded a record 323 heat deaths for any given year. In 2021, a new record was set, with 338 heat-related deaths reported by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
Heat waves also pose a danger to infrastructure.
“High heat can degrade and strain pavements, deform or strain railway tracks, and exceed certain types of aircraft operating limits,” the National Weather Service said on its website. “Electricity consumption is increasing as air conditioners and refrigeration units in homes and offices work harder to keep coolers indoors. The transmission capacity over electrical lines is reduced at high temperatures, which further burdens the electrical network.”
With triple-digit temperatures already gripping large parts of Texas, ERCOT, the state-owned electric company, predicted on Tuesday that demand would reach record levels this week as residents turn on the air conditioner in an effort to stay cool.
The United States is far from the only place on earth that has to deal with excessive heat, and scientists have shown that the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves is a consequence of climate change. Parts of northwestern and central India continue to bake, with temperatures in cities such as Sri Ganganagar and Brahmapuri reaching 115.
In parts of Kuwait, meanwhile, the mercury peaked at 124 on Wednesday.
Although residents of the southwest may be relieved to hear that cooler temperatures are expected to come after this weekend, it is worrying to realize that summer in the northern hemisphere will not officially begin until June 22.