Records break and fires rage as U.S. West sees third heat wave this summer

“People aren’t able to cool off; it's a lot harder to get relief.”

Burnt hills, flames and smoke surround a drought-stricken Shasta Lake during the Salt Fire in Lakehead, California on July 1, 2021. JOSH EDELSON / AFP via Getty Images

The West Coast of the U.S. continues to bake as high temperatures fuel wildfires.

The region faced its third heat wave this summer as the heat dome effect that smothered the Pacific Northwest in late June settled over California and parts of the Southwest over the weekend, The New York Times reported. More than 31 million people are now living in areas under heat warnings or advisories.

“This time, the core of the high pressure and heat has been anchored farther to the south and has allowed excessive heat to build up across the region,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Adam Douty said.

High temperatures were expected to impact southeast Oregon, northern California, the Mojave Desert, eastern California, and parts of Nevada and Utah, CNN reported.

The effect has led to some record-breaking temperatures. Death Valley broke a daily record first set in 1913 on Friday with a temperature reading of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, AccuWeather reported. Las Vegas, meanwhile, reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, tying the city’s all-time record. Other cities in Nevada and California also broke or tied their all-time high the same day.

Meanwhile, Lake George, Utah hit a temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which may match the highest temperature ever recorded in the state, pending confirmation.

One particular danger of the heat wave has been high night-time temperatures. In parts of the Desert Southwest, the thermometer has not dipped below 90 after sunset, CNN reported. In California, National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Rogowski predicted nighttime temperatures would be 15 to 25 degrees above average, according to The New York Times.

“When you start getting those warm temperatures overnight combined with those high temperatures during the day, it really starts to build the effect,” Rogowski told The New York Times. “People aren’t able to cool off; it’s a lot harder to get relief.”

This can put people at more risk of developing heat stroke and dying, according to CNN.

The high heat is also fueling 55 large wildfires. Fires now cover nearly 500 square miles in six Western states, USA TODAY reported. The largest is the Bootleg Fire, which has engulfed more than 220 square miles in Oregon and is zero percent contained.

Another fire in Arizona proved deadly when a plane heading to respond to the fire crashed on Saturday, killing two firefighters. California is also battling its largest fire so far this year in the Beckwourth Complex Fire, which doubled in size over the weekend, as 9&10 News reported.

“There have been 3,061 people affected by the evacuation with 1,199 residences threatened,” Beckwourth Complex Fire Information spokesman Mike Ferris told CNN.

The region should begin to see relief Monday into Tuesday evening, but the West is expected to stay five to 10 degrees warmer than average. And climate scientists believe that this summer’s relentless heat is a sign of things to come.

The climate crisis has raised average temperatures by nearly two degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, so when heat waves occur they are likely to be both hotter and deadlier, The New York Times explained.


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