Triple-digit temperatures expected to hit parts of California and Arizona this week

After a period of extreme pre-summer heat in Texas and Florida, California and Arizona are next to experience temperature spikes.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a heat wave across much of the Southwest and parts of California Tuesday through Thursday, as a ridge of high pressure centers over the region.

Forecasts suggest temperatures could climb as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix and reach 108 degrees in California’s Central Valley.

“It’s early,” said Eric Kurth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, California. “The heat is here and we need to prepare.”

By Wednesday, most communities in the Southwest will experience moderate, major or extreme heat risks, according to a new heat risk map from the National Weather Service.

High temperatures could also increase the risk of fire. Already, a grass fire broke out this weekend near the Central Valley community of Tracy, California, about 65 miles east of San Francisco. The fire, dubbed the Corral Fire, quickly grew to more than 14,000 acres, closed busy Interstate 580 and prompted evacuations.

“We had sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, and then we had gusts up to 60 miles per hour. People reported they couldn’t even stand up straight,” said Cécile Juliette, information officer for the California Department. forestry and fire protection.

This represents an early start to the fire season, she added: “We normally see a lot more fire activity in July, August and September. This simply indicates that people should be prepared to evacuate at any time. »

By Monday morning, firefighters had set up a containment line around three-quarters of the fire.

“Humidity levels are starting to drop,” Kurth said. “We have seen an increase in grass fires.”

He noted that the heat wave that began this week would not be uncommon in August in central California, but he said its early nature could make it more significant because “people are not adapted to the heat “.

“When we see a heat event earlier in the season, it can have more of an impact on people,” he said.

In the mountainous regions of the West, he said, early-season surf can also increase drowning risks, as people often flock to rivers where freshly melted snow flows.

“We have pretty cold temperatures in the water and strong currents,” Kurth said. “Be careful; wear life jackets.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted last month that 2024 would be one of the five hottest years on record and said it had a good chance of being the hottest on record.

Last year, deaths increased as prolonged heatwaves hit much of the South and Southwest.

Adrian Mata stands in a shaded corner while waiting for the bus in Phoenix on July 15.File Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Death certificates for more than 2,300 people who died in the United States last summer mentioned heat, according to an Associated Press analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data — the most in 45 years.

Heat is the leading cause of weather-related death in the United States. But its consequences are sometimes obscured in death certificate data, because heat often aggravates underlying conditions, such as heart, respiratory or kidney diseases. Texas A&M researchers estimated that 11,000 people probably died last year who would not have died from the heat last year, the AP reported.

Weather conditions such as the ridge of high pressure expected to form this week are the cause of many of these deaths.

The Phoenix area endured temperatures above 110 degrees on all but one day of July last year, according to National Weather Service data — something scientists have since determined was “virtually impossible” without the effects of climate change. In Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and several of its suburbs, at least 645 people died from heat-related causes last year, a 52% increase from the previous year.

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