An intense heatwave is gripping several regions around the world, with temperature records at risk of being broken in 38 cities. Las Vegas, in particular, faces the possibility of tying or surpassing its record high of 117°F (47.2°C). This comes as southern Europe experiences soaring temperatures and Canada battles an unprecedented wildfire season. Scientists have long warned that climate change resulting from human activities would lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events.
In the southwestern United States, firefighters are contending with brush fires in scorching heat and low humidity near Los Angeles. Death Valley in California registered a temperature of 128°F (53.9°C) on Sunday, close to its record of 134°F (56.7°C), the highest reliably recorded temperature on Earth. The usually bustling streets of Las Vegas are noticeably quieter, with security guards stationed near fountains to prevent people from jumping in.
El Paso, Texas, has endured temperatures above 100.4°F (38°C) for over a month with no relief in sight. Phoenix, Arizona, has experienced temperatures exceeding 109.4°F (43°C) for 17 consecutive days. Although cloud cover provided a slight respite, daytime temperatures still reached highs of 114°F (45.5°C) in the city.
The prolonged heatwave poses a significant risk to vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Homeless individuals have sought medical treatment for third-degree burns, and public buildings have been converted into cooling centers to provide refuge from the extreme heat in parts of California and Nevada.
Death Valley Park Ranger Matthew Lamar noted that temperatures reaching 130°F (54.4°C) were historically rare, but in recent years, such extremes have become more frequent. Tourists are drawn to the area to experience these extremes, but some visitors urge others not to overlook the underlying issue of climate change.
The current weather pattern is attributed to a heat dome, wherein high-pressure systems push air towards the ground, compressing and heating it. This warmer air rises again, creating a cycle of sinking air through the center of the dome and rising along its sides. The pressure from the dome inhibits the formation of cooling weather systems such as rain clouds.
The National Weather Service has described the current heat dome as one of the strongest to impact the southwestern US. The dome is expected to expand across the southern regions of the country, leading to increased temperatures in other states.
Meanwhile, other parts of the US are preparing for severe thunderstorms and flash floods, while northeastern states may experience poor air quality due to the ongoing wildfires in Canada.
The world has already warmed by approximately 1.1°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and temperatures will continue to rise unless governments worldwide take significant measures to reduce emissions.