Climate experts are raising alarm over the scorching weather across much of the western U.S. Although high-pressure zones are not uncommon in the summer, the “heat domes” with persistent high-pressure zones usually come toward August. This year, several states have already witnessed persistent scorching temperatures that cannot pass for normal summer heat.
Scientists are now warning that these record-breaking temperatures might be a turning point for our weather patterns as we know them. One of the regions that experienced extremely high temperatures includes Palm Springs, California, where a temperature of 123°F was recorded. This equals the highest ever recorded temperature in the city.
In Las Vegas, an average daily temperature of 114°F has been recorded, while Phoenix hit 118°F, breaking the existing record of 114°F. In Sacramento, a new high of 109°F has been recorded, and in Denver, temperatures reached 100°F on three consecutive days. According to meteorologist Bob Henson’s tweet, these types of streaks in Denver have only been witnessed in past 32 years, compared to the 150 years of climate records.
“It’s not only unusual for June, but it is pretty extreme even in absolute terms,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, according to NPR. “It would be a pretty extreme event for August.”
The high temperatures have set records in most parts of the West. The current temperatures are, in some places, the highest recorded locally in history, while in other regions, they represent the hottest weeks or months on record.
Alison Bridger, of the Meteorology and Climate Science Department at San Jose State University, noted that there is danger in terms of the intensity and the widespread nature of these heat domes.
“It’s unusual in that it’s more intense in terms of the maximum temperature,” Bridger said. “And how widespread the impact is.”
Besides the scorching heat, high levels of drought have also been recorded across much of the West. Swain said that the drought situation is contributing to the temperature crisis. “The drought is leading to extremely low soil moisture, which is making it easier for these high-pressure systems to generate extreme heatwaves because more of the sun’s energy is going into heating the atmosphere rather than evaporating nonexistent water in the soil. That’s sort of the vicious cycle of drought and extreme heat in a warming climate.”
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