The weather in the West has gone off the rails. Since late in the past week, the blistering heat has set scores of high-temperature records. The heat has fueled violent thunderstorms unleashing a barrage of lightning strikes, igniting a rash of fires. Lightning even filled the sky over the San Francisco Bay area on Sunday and Monday, where such displays are rare.
The extreme weather stems from a massive, unusually intense heat dome over the Southwest. It developed late in the past week and is now near peak intensity. It is forecast to hold in place for at least another week, although its strength will gradually ease.
Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories smother the western United States, affecting much of California (except for the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada range); all of Nevada; much of western and southern Arizona, including Phoenix; western Utah, including Salt Lake City; central and eastern Oregon and Washington; and large parts of Idaho and Montana, all the way to the Canadian border. Over 56 million Americans are under some sort of heat alert.
Heat is the leading cause of the weather-related deaths in the United States in many years. “Long duration heat spells like this one can be extremely dangerous, be sure to limit your outdoor exposure and stay hydrated!” tweeted the National Weather Service forecast office serving Las Vegas, which is under an excessive-heat warning through at least Wednesday.
Since Friday, scores of long-standing heat records have fallen. Several of these records have not only met or exceeded previous marks for the day they occurred but also for the entire month of August. Some of the August records include:
- Phoenix hit 117 degrees Friday, tying its highest temperature during the month.
- Oakland hit 100 degrees Saturday for the first time on record during August.
- Needles, in California’s southeastern desert, set an August record of 123 on Saturday.
- Sacramento set an August record of 112 degrees Sunday.
The searing 130-degree high temperature in Death Valley on Sunday has captured international attention. If confirmed, it will become the highest temperature measured on the planet during August and the third-hottest in any month. It would also be the highest temperature observed on Earth since at least 1931. The only hotter two temperature measurements prior to that are disputed by some experts.
Death Valley could flirt with 130 degrees again Monday afternoon. In fact, it is forecast to see highs at or above its previous August record of 127 degrees through Wednesday. Highs of at least 124 degrees are forecast through Sunday.