California’s dangerous heat wave is expected to peak this weekend with potentially record highs.
Death Valley, already one of the hottest places on earth, hit 124 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, a daily high for the region.
On Friday, Monday and Tuesday, temperatures in the valley are expected to reach 125F (51.6C), according to AccuWeather. The hottest September temperature on record anywhere in the world is 126 F (52.2 C), set in Mecca, California in 1950.
While the rest of the state won’t get as hot, temperatures are still expected to be extremely high.
On Tuesday, temperatures are expected to reach 112F (44C) in Fresno and 110F (43C) in Sacramento. Highs in other parts of the Central Valley are expected to reach between 107F (42C) and 109F (43C).
The Los Angeles area is expected to experience its hottest temperatures on Sunday and Monday, with highs in parts of the San Fernando Valley reaching as high as 114 (46C) on Sunday. Downtown LA is expected to reach around 100 F (38 C) all weekend.
Parts of the Inland Empire will experience dangerous heat all weekend and into next week. On Monday and Tuesday, the Coachella Valley is expected to hit highs around 113F (45C).
Intense heat is also expected to reach other parts of the western United States. Eastern Washington and Oregon, as well as parts of Idaho, are expected to hit highs around 100F (38C) on Friday. On Saturday, most of eastern Montana will also see highs around 100F.
And temperatures in southern Nevada and western Arizona, usually very hot, will be even more brutal this weekend. On Monday, the mercury is expected to reach 109F (43C) in Phoenix, 110F (43C) in Las Vegas and 112F (44C) in Yuma.
Almost all of California, in addition to areas around Phoenix and Las Vegas, is under an “excessive heat warning.” Other parts of the west are under an “excessive heat watch” or “heat advisory.”
A total of 54 million people are under some sort of heat alert.
Even in areas where the heat will not be particularly dangerous, it will be much hotter than usual. High temperatures in downtown San Francisco will only reach around 79 F (26 C) over the weekend, but that’s higher than September’s average high temperature in the region of 70 F (21C).
Temperatures this high can be extremely dangerous, especially for people who are particularly heat-sensitive like the elderly, young children and people with pre-existing health conditions.
Heat illnesses can range from a rash to life-threatening heat stress, where the body is unable to cool itself. The National Weather Service encouraged people to stay hydrated, seek air conditioning and watch out for vulnerable people.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to the heat, in part to increase electricity production and reduce energy demand.
State grid operator California ISO warned of potential outages as power demand increases due to extreme heat, largely driven by air conditioning needs. They asked people to set their thermostats higher and avoid using major appliances or charging electric cars during peak afternoon hours.
The heat has also sparked wildfires, as high temperatures meet landscapes ready to burn after the intense drought that has rocked the west for years.
Two wildfires are burning near Los Angeles and San Diego, prompting evacuations, destroying structures and injuring 11 firefighters. Some other fires are also burning in California and in Oregon, the Rum Creek Fire has burned nearly 17,000 acres, or about 40% the size of Washington, DC.
Parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and northern California are under red flag warnings, which means a high risk of wildfires due to high temperatures, dry air and winds.
These types of heat waves could become much more common as the climate crisis worsens. According to a United Nations climate science panel, heat waves that used to occur every 10 years will occur every two years if the world reaches 2°C of warming from 19th century temperatures.
Already the world has warmed by around 1.1 to 1.2°C – and is expected to reach 2.7°C of warming by 2100, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis of global climate policy .
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