A heatwave is sweeping across the southern and southwestern regions of the United States, putting more than 100 million Americans under heatwave alerts. Experts have issued warnings that temperatures in some areas are expected to climb even higher in the coming days, potentially reaching triple digits. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued excessive heat advisories and warnings for a vast stretch of the country, from Florida to California, and covering southern Nevada, western Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma. These heat alerts are affecting over 109 million people.
The NWS attributes the heatwave to a stagnant upper-level high located over the Southwest and northern Mexico. This high-pressure system is not only remaining in place but is also expanding its coverage, particularly over the Great Basin and California. As a result, widespread heat advisories and warnings are in effect across the Central/Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, portions of the Desert Southwest, and California. The NWS predicts that multiple locations in the west could experience record-breaking temperatures by the weekend, while areas in the Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and southeast could see temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s. The high humidity levels exacerbate the situation, making it feel even hotter, with heat indices reaching up to 115 degrees.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate relief in sight as weather officials predict that the intense heat and stifling conditions will worsen over the weekend and continue into the next week. According to the NWS, approximately 27 million people across the Lower 48 states will experience air temperatures or heat indices above 110 degrees over the next seven days. The NWS emphasizes the importance of taking action to limit exposure to the oppressive hot weather.
The NWS warns of extreme dangers posed by the excessive heat, particularly due to a cooler start to the summer, which may have limited people’s ability to acclimate to hotter weather. The Central Valley of California, portions of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in southern California, southern Nevada, and Arizona are the areas most at risk heading into the weekend. The NWS advises that the excessive heat will persist for the next two weeks in much of the southwestern United States and may extend further into Texas.
Extreme heat poses significant health risks, with approximately 618 people in the United States dying from heat-related illnesses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Older adults, young children, and individuals with mental illness and chronic diseases are particularly vulnerable. The CDC recommends wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing during periods of excessive heat and staying indoors in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Outdoor activities should be limited, and regular cold showers or seeking refuge in air-conditioned places are suggested. The CDC also states that relying solely on electric fans may not prevent heat-related illnesses, especially when temperatures are in the high 90s.
This heatwave comes after June was recorded as the warmest June globally since at least 1850. Phoenix and California experienced soaring temperatures, leading to deadly wildfires. In contrast, parts of the northeastern United States have been dealing with severe rain and heavy flooding in recent days. Vermont, in particular, experienced severe flooding, resulting in more than 8,000 residents in the state capital of Montpelier being placed under a boil water notice. Additionally, extreme weather in the Chicago area spawned several tornadoes, causing disruptions at airports.
As the heatwave continues, it is crucial for individuals to prioritize their safety and take necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of heat-related illnesses.