A record-breaking heat wave sweeping the southern United States is expected to expand in the coming days and weeks, as scientists warn that July is likely to be the hottest month on record.
About 80 million Americans will swelter in temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) and above this week, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
Extreme heat of up to 115F is predicted in Phoenix, Arizona, which has seen a record-breaking three weeks in a row of highs above 110F.
There were inferno scenes in the city Thursday when a fierce fire broke out at a propane business near the international airport, sending tanks exploding into the air.
“Unfortunately, on a hot day like this, these propane tanks with that heat expansion, they literally become missiles…They can travel upwards of 500 yards (meters),” Fire Captain Rob McDade told television station KPHO.
Tourists meanwhile flock to Death Valley National Park, which straddles the border between California and Nevada, to post selfies with the temperature display outside the visitor center.
Many had hoped to see it break a world record of 134F, which was set in July 1913 but was likely the result of a measurement error, according to several meteorologists.
But this type of tourism has inherent risks. A 71-year-old man from Los Angeles died earlier this week after collapsing outside a restroom at a trailhead, the National Park Service (NPS) said.
A few hours later, he was interviewed by a Los Angeles Times reporter, and photographed covered in sunscreen, huddled under a metal sign that provided little shade.
“The Inyo County Coroner’s Office has not yet determined the cause of the man’s death. However, park rangers suspect heat was a factor,” the NPS said, adding that this is likely the second heat-related death in the park this year.
Looking ahead to the latter part of the month, heat is expected to push north into the Midwest, Great Plains and Central Rockies, Matt Rosencrans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said in a briefing call.
July 2023 is on track to be the warmest full month — not only since records began, but also in “hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” lead NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt told reporters.
Additionally, the effects cannot be attributed solely to the El Nino weather pattern, which is “recently emerging” and not expected to intensify until later in the year.
El Nino is associated with warming ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
Schmidt said the trend of extreme heat is expected to continue, “and the reason why we think that will continue, is because we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
Scientists say it is vital to keep long-term warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels to avoid a future in which half the world’s population could be exposed to periods of life-threatening extreme heat and humidity.
© 2023 AFP
Citation: Record-breaking heat wave baking southern US set to expand (2023, July 21) retrieved on July 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-record-breaking-southern.html
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