SETH BORNSHTEIN and ANITHA SNOW (Associated Press)
PHOENIX (TodayNews) — A dangerous 19th consecutive day of scorching heat in Phoenix on Tuesday set a record for U.S. cities, forced many residents to live safely with air conditioning, and turned a normally bustling metropolis into a ghost town.
The city’s record streak of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 Celsius) or more stood out even against sweltering temperatures around the world. By 15:00 it reached 117 degrees (47.2 Celsius).
Human-induced climate change and the newly formed El Niño will combine to break heat records around the world, scientists say.
According to weather historian Christopher Burt of The Weather Company.
“When you have several million people exposed to this kind of thermal abuse, there are consequences,” said NOAA climate analysis group director Russell Vos, who chairs the national records committee.
For Phoenix, it’s not just the brutal daily highs that are deadly. Lack of nighttime rest can deprive people without access to air conditioning of the break their bodies need to function properly.
With Tuesday’s low of 94 F (34.4 C) in the city for nine consecutive days, temperatures have not fallen below 90 F (32.2 C) at night, breaking another record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Salerno. called it “pretty pathetic when you don’t have an overnight recovery.”
On Monday, the city also set a record for the hottest overnight temperature: 95 F (35 C). During the day, the heat rose so early that the city hit 110 a couple of minutes before noon.
Dog parks, empty for morning and evening concerts and other outdoor events, have been canceled to protect performers and visitors. The city’s Desert Botanical Garden, an extensive open-air collection of cacti and other desert plants, began closing at 2:00 pm on the weekend before the hottest part of the day.
Hours before the new record was set, rivers of sweat streamed down 38-year-old Lori Miccici’s tanned face as she pushed a shopping cart through downtown Phoenix in search of a place to hide from the heat.
“I have been here for a long time and have been homeless for about three years,” Miccici said. “When this is the case, you just have to go into the shadows. This last week has been the hottest I have ever seen.”
Nearly 200 cooling and hydration centers were set up in the metro area, but most closed between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm due to staffing and funding issues.
The entire globe boiled to record-breaking heat in both June and July. Nearly every day this month, average global temperatures have been above the unofficial hottest day recorded through 2023, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer. U.S. weather stations have broken more than 860 heat records in the past seven days, according to NOAA.
Rome reached an all-time high of 109 (42.9 degrees Celsius), with record heat recorded in Italy, France, Spain and parts of China. Catalonia broke records reaching 113 (45 Celsius), according to global weather record holder Maximiliano Herrera.
And if that’s not enough, smoke from wildfires, floods and droughts has caused global problems.
In addition to Phoenix, Vose and others found less densely populated areas such as Death Valley and Needles, California; and Casa Grande, Arizona, with longer growth streaks, but not in areas with many people. In Death Valley, the 84-day temperature band reaches 110 degrees.
The last time Phoenix didn’t reach 110 F (43.3 C) was on June 29 when it reached 108 (42.2 C). The record of 18 days above 110, which was set on Monday, was first set in 1974.
“This is likely to be one of the most notable periods in our health history in terms of mortality and morbidity,” said David Hondula, the city’s district heating chief. “Our goal is for this not to happen.”
Phoenix City parks and recreation workers Joseph Garcia, 48, and Roy Galindo, 28, tried to remain calm as they trimmed the bushes. They operate from 5am to 1:30pm to avoid the hottest time of the day.
“It gets really hot in here and sometimes we have to take care of the public,” Galindo said, adding that he sometimes finds people passed out on the grass. “Many of these people don’t drink water.”
Retired Phoenix firefighter Mark Bracey, who has lived in the city for most of his 68 years, made a two-hour morning climb up and down the 2,610-foot (796-metre) Piesteva Peak on Tuesday.
“I’ve been going there regularly since I was in the Cub Scouts, but it’s never been this hot back then,” Bracey said. “We’ve had hot spells before, but never anything like this.”
Dr. Eric Mattison, director of the emergency room at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center in Metro Phoenix, recalled a hiker in his 60s who was brought in last week with a body temperature of 110 degrees (43.3 C).
“The heat makes people sick. The heat makes people die,” Mattison said.
“And it’s not just the elderly,” he added. “We’ve seen professional athletes fall ill in the heat during training camp.”
The Phoenix heatwave has both long-term and short-term causes, said Arizona State University’s Randy Cerveny, who coordinates the weather data review for the World Meteorological Organization.
The long-term high temperatures in recent decades are human-related, he said, while the short-term cause is high pressure over the western United States.
This high pressure, also known as the heat dome, has been in existence in the southwest for several weeks now. As it moved, it drifted further towards Phoenix, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Isaac Smith.
The high pressure in the southwest not only brings heat, but also prevents refreshing rain and clouds, Smith said. Typically the southwest monsoon season starts around June 15th with rain and clouds. But Phoenix hasn’t had measurable rain since mid-March.
“This heatwave is intense and relentless,” said Katherine Jacobs, director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona. “Unfortunately, this is a harbinger of things to come.”
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Borenstein reported from Washington. Follow Seth Borenstein and Anita Snow on Twitter at @borenbears and @asnowreports.
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