Extreme heat could break all-time records out West


Thermometer Sun 40 Degres. Hot summer day. High Summer temperatures

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Extreme heat over the Western U.S. is continuing to push many cities and towns to their limits. Millions of people from California to Montana are under some type of heat alert on Tuesday — and it’s likely to last through the end of the week.

Temperatures at — or well above — 100 degrees are likely from the U.S.-Mexico border all the way up to the U.S.-Canadian border.

Cities like Salt Lake City, Denver, and Phoenix are expected to shatter their daily record highs for June 15 by anywhere from 5 to as much as 10 degrees. Los Angeles and Las Vegas will be close to setting new records.

Even all-time record highs are in jeopardy of being broken.

In Nevada, the hottest temperature ever recorded was 125 degrees in Laughlin. The forecast high there on Tuesday? 122 degrees.

Mountainous cities like Grand Junction, Colorado and Billings, Montana are expected to see highs Tuesday over 100 degrees.

And there is not much relief in sight as the high pressure responsible for the extreme heat is forecast to intensify in the days to come.

These hot temperatures come at a time when much of the West has been suffering from years of drought conditions. Within the past year alone, drought conditions have expanded and worsened for so many of the same areas dealing with extreme heat today.

Drought conditions June 2, 2020
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor
Drought conditions June 1, 2021
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

According to NBC News, 97% of the Western region in some category of drought and 55% in extreme to exceptional drought, meteorologists are sounding the alarm for another potential severe wildfire season on the horizon.

In 2020, more than 700,000 acres burned due to wildfires. This year, there’s already been 981,356 burned acres, reports National Interagency Fire Center.

According to Cal Fire, California is already experiencing a 26% increase in wildfire activity and a 58% increase in acres burned compared to 2020. Last year ended up being the worst wildfire season for the state with a record-setting 4.4 million acres burned.

Unlike here in Central Texas, the hottest time of the year in the West (climatologically) is in June. But come August and September — climatologically the hottest time in Central Texas — the West typically cools off with the influence of the monsoon.

Higher temperatures and worsening wildfire seasons can be attributed to climate change. Heat waves are lasting longer and becoming more intense, and wildfire seasons across the West are seeing an increase in acres burned year over year.

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