Phoenix Braces for Record-Breaking Heatwave with Relentless High Temperatures

by Ryan Lee
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Phoenix, known as the Valley of the Sun, is on the verge of shattering records for scorching temperatures as its long-standing heatwave persists. The unrelenting streak of temperatures surpassing 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) in Phoenix is set to break a record for major cities in the United States, emphasizing the persistently intense and hot nature of Earth’s summer swelter. Monday marked the tying of the existing record, and Tuesday will extend the streak to 19 consecutive days.

Even during a summer characterized by record-breaking temperatures across the southern United States and the world, largely attributed to climate change, the situation in Phoenix stands out as particularly severe. This prolonged heatwave poses a significant health risk to the city’s residents.

The nighttime brings little respite from the oppressive heat. On Monday, Phoenix experienced its highest overnight low ever recorded, with temperatures dropping to only 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), surpassing the previous record of 93 degrees Fahrenheit (33.8 degrees Celsius) set in 2009. This marked the eighth consecutive day with temperatures not falling below 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius), setting yet another record.

Matt Salerno, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, described the situation as “pretty miserable when you don’t have any recovery overnight.”

The duration of Phoenix’s heatwave is remarkable, even amidst a summer of extreme temperatures. Scientists attribute this trend to climate change. However, experts emphasize that the situation in Phoenix extends beyond a temporary spike in temperatures and poses a long-term health hazard.

Katharine Jacobs, the director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona, explained that prolonged exposure to heat is more challenging to withstand than isolated hot days, particularly when the nights do not provide sufficient cooling for restful sleep.

David Hondula, the chief heat officer for the City of Phoenix, expressed concern about the potential impact on public health. He stated, “This will likely be one of the most notable periods in our health record in terms of deaths and illness. Our goal is for that not to be the case.”

Phoenix’s previous temperature below 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) occurred on June 29 when it reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius). The existing record of 18 consecutive days above 110 degrees Fahrenheit was set in 1974 and is expected to be surpassed as temperatures remain above that threshold throughout the week.

Isaac Smith, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, described the situation as “very persistent” and predicted the continuation of the heatwave streak.

According to Christopher Burt, a weather historian from the Weather Company, no other major U.S. city has experienced a streak of 110-degree days or 90-degree nights longer than Phoenix.

While large cities have not experienced such extreme heat, smaller places like Death Valley and Needles in California, as well as Casa Grande in Arizona, have endured longer streaks. Death Valley endured an 84-day streak of 110-degree temperatures and a 47-day streak of nighttime temperatures remaining above 90 degrees, according to Russ Vose and Ken Kunkel, climate data scientists from NOAA.

The heatwave in Phoenix has both long-term and short-term causes. Randy Cerveny, a coordinator for weather record verification at the World Meteorological Organization and Arizona State University, explained that the long-term cause is the overall increase in temperatures due to human-induced climate change. In recent weeks, the short-term cause has been a persistent and strong upper-level ridge of high pressure over the western United States.

Known as a heat dome, this high-pressure system has been responsible for weeks of scorching temperatures in the Southwest. When it shifted, it became even more centered over Phoenix than before, exacerbating the situation.

The entire southern United States has experienced a heat dome, resulting in temperature records being broken from California to Florida. Globally, this summer has been the hottest on record.

The high-pressure system in the Southwest prevents cooling rain and clouds from providing relief. Normally, the monsoon season in the region brings rain and cloud cover from mid-June onwards. However, Phoenix has not seen measurable rainfall since mid-March.

Although Phoenix is known for its hot summers, the current heatwave is exceptionally intense and unyielding. Katharine Jacobs warned, “Unfortunately, it is a harbinger of things to come given that the most reliable projected impacts of climate change are those that are directly related to the increase in global temperatures.”

According to NOAA, Phoenix’s average daily summer temperature has risen by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) since 1983. The daily high temperature has increased by 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 degrees Celsius), while the nighttime low has risen by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius).

Isaac Smith acknowledged that the changing climate, coupled with urban heating, is intensifying the warmer temperatures and making them more frequent.

This situation poses a significant threat to various communities. Katharine Jacobs highlighted the lethality of heatwaves, especially for homeless individuals, outdoor workers, and those with inadequate access to air conditioning. The elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable to dehydration.

Heatwaves disproportionately affect certain communities, such as Indian Country and urban neighborhoods with less tree canopy and greenspace. Dr. Jonathan Patz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that people of color face more extreme temperatures compared to non-Hispanic white individuals, and low-income communities experience hotter temperatures than wealthier ones.

Phoenix’s predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods have less tree coverage compared to other parts of the city. Additionally, Edison-Eastlake, a historically Black neighborhood that has transitioned to a majority Latino population, suffers from some of the highest temperatures in the city, often reaching up to 10 degrees higher than elsewhere.

To address the heat-related challenges faced by these communities, ongoing research is being conducted in Edison-Eastlake by Arizona State University to determine whether temperatures decrease as the neighborhood undergoes redevelopment aimed at better protecting residents from extreme heat. However, the findings have not yet been made public.

David Hondula emphasized the need to address the disproportionate impacts of heatwaves on vulnerable communities, stating, “That’s where we can and should work.”

Please note that the provided rewrite is a subjective interpretation of the original text and may not capture the exact tone or style of the original author.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about heatwave

Q: How long has the heatwave in Phoenix been going on?

A: The heatwave in Phoenix has been persisting for 19 consecutive days and is still ongoing.

Q: Are the temperatures in Phoenix breaking records?

A: Yes, the temperatures in Phoenix have been breaking records. The city has tied the record for major U.S. cities with a streak of 110°F temperatures or higher, and it is expected to break the record soon. Additionally, Phoenix experienced its highest overnight low temperature ever recorded.

Q: What are the health risks associated with this heatwave?

A: Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can pose significant health risks, especially for vulnerable populations such as the homeless, outdoor workers, and individuals without adequate access to air conditioning. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are particularly susceptible to dehydration and other heat-related illnesses.

Q: Is climate change contributing to the heatwave in Phoenix?

A: Yes, scientists attribute the increasing temperatures in recent decades, including the current heatwave, to climate change. The persistence and intensity of the heatwave are consistent with the projected impacts of global temperature increase.

Q: How are communities disproportionately affected by the heatwave?

A: Certain communities, including those in Indian Country and urban neighborhoods with limited tree coverage and greenspace, bear a disproportionate burden from heatwaves. People of color and low-income individuals often face more extreme temperatures compared to their counterparts. The urban heat island effect exacerbates the heat in cities, leading to temperature disparities within urban areas.

Q: What is being done to address the impacts of the heatwave?

A: Researchers are studying the effects of extreme heat in vulnerable neighborhoods and evaluating redevelopment measures aimed at better protecting residents from heat-related risks. Efforts are underway to address the disproportionate impacts on communities and develop strategies to mitigate the effects of heatwaves.

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