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Southwest Heatwave Threatens Wildfires, Record Highs

AccuWeather warns of scorching temperatures and increased risk of wildfires in the Southwest as all-time highs may be challenged.

The already scorching hot Southwest is expected to get hotter later this week, AccuWeather meteorologists say. The dangerously hot weather will raise the risk of wildfires and potentially challenge all-time record highs in some cities.

“A number of locations over the Southwest will challenge daily record highs this weekend,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Haley Taylor.

Due to the long-duration heat wave, excessive heat warnings were in effect across the Desert Southwest, including in cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Palm Springs, California.

A strong area of high pressure, known as a heat dome, and a shift in the position of the jetstream are two key factors that have led to the brutal heat.

From late this week to early next week that northward bulge of the jet stream will be as extreme as it can be over the interior Southwest. Since this region is typically the hottest zone in the United States during the summer, it can get dangerously hot in the coming days.

Planes at their gates against the city skyline at Sky Harbor International Airport on July 12, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona. Tuesday marked the Phoenix-area’s 12th consecutive day of temperatures reaching over 110 degrees, as a record-breaking heat wave continues across the Southwest. (REBECCA NOBLE/GETTY IMAGES) 

The extreme heat and blazing sunshine can cause most individuals to become rapidly dehydrated, experts warn. People are urged to avoid strenuous activity during the daylight hours, to increase their intake of fluids, and seek an air-conditioned environment when possible to avoid the potential of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In some locations, AccuWeather RealFeel® Sun temperatures can be more than a dozen degrees above the actual temperature.

Projected high temperatures will come within a few degrees of daily records on Friday,  July 14 in many cities in Arizona, southern Nevada and interior Southern California.

Fresno, California, could challenge its record high for any date on Sunday,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva. That all-time record of 115 degrees Fahrenheit was set way back in 1905.

AccuWeather meteorologists expect Fresno to have highs of 105 or greater each day from Friday through the middle of next week, which is the local threshold for what defines a heat wave. With the magnitude of the extreme temperatures in the forecast, the heat wave will be close to some of the worst in recent years, based on the AccuWeather HeatWave Severity Index™.

People enjoy a day in a park on the outskirts of the city on July 04, 2022, in Fresno, California. Homes were destroyed over the Fourth of July weekend after a quick-moving grass fire moved through the area, causing the temporary evacuation of a neighborhood. According to a new report by the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 97% of the state of California’s land area is in at least severe drought status, with 60% in at least extreme drought and the driest 12% in exceptional drought. (SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES) 

In downtown Los Angeles, temperatures are forecast to peak near 90 F this weekend and could extend into next week as well. In the City of Angels, a heat wave is three or more days in a row with high temperatures of 90 or greater.

Some 250 miles to the northeast of Los Angeles, at one of the hottest places on Earth, temperatures are forecast to climb into the upper 120s and could hit 130 degrees in Death Valley, California. The world record air temperature of 134 F was set in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, at the Furnace Creek observation site. The valley floor sits nearly 300 feet (91.44 m) below sea level.

Meanwhile, Phoenix, which is aptly known as the Valley of the Sun, has been experiencing a lengthy stretch of days with high temperatures of at least 110 degrees. As of Tuesday, July 11, Phoenix has experienced 14 days in a row with high temperatures ranging from 110 to 116. The city is currently experiencing its third-longest streak of days with temperatures at or above 110 F on record.

As the heat builds into this weekend and persists into early next week, there is the potential for Phoenix to reach the 120-degree mark. Temperatures have only reached or exceeded this threshold thrice since record-keeping began in 1896. The three 120-degree readings all occurred in the 1990s. The city’s all-time high of 122 was recorded on June 26, 1990.

Las Vegas is another desert metro area that has an excellent chance of approaching its all-time record high. That 117-degree mark has been reached five times, most recently on July 10, 2021. Temperatures are projected to come within a couple of degrees of that mark from Saturday to Monday, with daily records being challenged or broken each day.

Several hundred miles to the northeast of Las Vegas, Salt Lake City will have highs within a couple of degrees of 100 each day through Wednesday of next week. As of Tuesday, Utah’s capital has hit 100 F twicein July compared to a historical average high in the low to mid-90s.

Produced in association with AccuWeather

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