Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East | CNN (2024)

Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East | CNN (1)

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are seen in Death Valley National Park, near Furnace Creek, during a heatwave impacting Southern California on July 7.

Los Angeles (AP) — More than 50 million people across the US are under heat alerts as a brutal heat wave that has shattered records and caused the death of a motorcyclist in California’s Death Valley continues to scorch the West.

Dozens of locations in the West and Pacific Northwest tied or broke previous heat records in the last few days, and more than 165 daily high temperature records could be tied or broken this week.

Many areas in Northern California surpassed 110 degrees Sunday, while Las Vegas reached a record high of 120 degrees and Phoenix, Arizona, set a new daily record for the warmest low temperature: it never got below 92 degrees.

A high temperature of 129 degrees was recorded Saturday and Sunday in Death Valley National Park in eastern California, where a visitor died Saturday from heat exposure and another person was hospitalized, officials said.

The two visitors were part of a group of six motorcyclists riding through the Badwater Basin area amid scorching weather, the park said in a statement.

The person who died was not identified. The other motorcyclist was transported to a Las Vegas hospital for “severe heat illness,” the statement said. Due to the high temperatures, emergency medical helicopters were unable to respond, as the aircraft cannot generally fly safely over 120 degrees, officials said.

The other four members of the party were treated at the scene.

“While this is a very exciting time to experience potential world record setting temperatures in Death Valley, we encourage visitors to choose their activities carefully, avoiding prolonged periods of time outside of an air-conditioned vehicle or building when temperatures are this high,” said park Superintendent Mike Reynolds.

Death Valley has reached or exceeded 125 degrees every day since July 4. The streak is expected to continue through Saturday.

Officials warned that heat illness and injury are cumulative and can build over the course of a day or days.

“Besides not being able to cool down while riding due to high ambient air temperatures, experiencing Death Valley by motorcycle when it is this hot is further challenged by the necessary heavy safety gear worn to reduce injuries during an accident,” the park statement said.

The soaring temperatures didn’t faze Chris Kinsel, a Death Valley visitor who said it was “like Christmas day for me” to be there on a record-breaking day. Kinsel said he and his wife typically come to the park during the winter, when it’s still plenty warm — but that’s nothing compared with being at one of the hottest places on Earth in July.

“Death Valley during the summer has always been a bucket list thing for me. For most of my life, I’ve wanted to come out here in summertime,” said Kinsel, who was visiting Death Valley’s Badwater Basin area from Las Vegas.

Kinsel said he planned to go to the park’s visitor center to have his photo taken next to the digital sign displaying the current temperature.

Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East | CNN (3)

Las Vegas hit an all-time high temperature record on Sunday, with 120 degrees.

Across the desert in Nevada, Natasha Ivory took four of her eight children to a water park in Mount Charleston, outside Las Vegas, which on Sunday set a record high of 120 degrees.

“They’re having a ball,” Ivory told CNN affiliate Fox5 Vegas. “I’m going to get wet too. It’s too hot not to.”

Indiana resident Mark Kavacinski told Fox5 Vegas that his family almost canceled their vacation to Las Vegas because of the intense heat.

“We knew it was going to be hot. It’s July, right? Did we know it was going to be this hot? No,” Kavacinski said. “But we decided that heat’s heat. We can handle it.”

Jill Workman Anderson also was at Mount Charleston, taking her dog for a short hike and enjoying the view.

“We can look out and see the desert,” she said. “It was also 30 degrees cooler than northwest Las Vegas, where we live.”

Las Vegas hit an all-time high of 120 degrees Sunday, prompting the local National Weather Service office to share photos of cookies baking in a car and crayons melting.

The city has recorded temperatures over 110 degrees for five consecutive days and the streak is expected to continue until at least Sunday – which would be the longest stretch of days over 110 degrees Las Vegas has ever seen.

Triple-digit temperatures were common across Oregon, where several records were toppled — including in Salem, where on Sunday it hit 103 degrees, topping the 99 degree mark set in 1960. On the more-humid East Coast, temperatures above 100 degrees were widespread, though no excessive heat advisories were in effect for Sunday.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors,” read a weather service advisory for the Baltimore area. “Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circ*mstances.”

Heat records shattered across the Southwest

Rare heat advisories were extended even into higher elevations including around Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada, with the weather service in Reno, Nevada, warning of “major heat risk impacts, even in the mountains.”

“How hot are we talking? Well, high temperatures across (western Nevada and northeastern California) won’t get below 100 degrees until next weekend,” the service posted online. “And unfortunately, there won’t be much relief overnight either.”

More extreme highs are in the near forecast, including possibly 130 degrees around midweek at Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley. The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134 degrees Fahrenheit in July 1913 in Death Valley, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130, recorded there in July 2021.

Tracy Housley, a native of Manchester, England, said she decided to drive from her hotel in Las Vegas to Death Valley after hearing on the radio that temperatures could approach record levels.

“We just thought, let’s be there for that,” Housley said Sunday. “Let’s go for the experience.”

Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East | CNN (4)

Officials are urging people to take precautions in the face of dangerously high temperatures.

In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, there have been at least 13 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, along with more than 160 other deaths suspected of being related to heat that are still under investigation, according to a recent report.

That does not include the death of a 10-year-old boy last week in Phoenix who suffered a “heat-related medical event” while hiking with family at South Mountain Park and Preserve, according to police.

Climate crisis fuels our warming world

June marked the twelfthmonth in a row in which the global average temperature was at least 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in pre-industrial times,according to new data from Copernicus, the European Union’s climate monitoring service.

June this year was 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than the average Junebefore industrialization, when humans started burning large amounts of planet-heatingfossil fuels.Over the last 12 months, the world has been, on average,1.64 degrees Celsius hotter than in pre-industrial times.

The world also marked the thirteenthstraight month of record-breaking heat, meaning that last month was the hottest June on record, and each month before that for a year was the hottest such month on record as well. The natural El Niño phenomenon contributed to the record heat, but long-term climate change has been the main driver of the temperature rise over the past year, previous Copernicus analysis has shown.

June, which marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, was also thefifthmonth in a rowin whichocean temperatures havebroken monthly records, according to Copernicus.

“This is more than a statistical oddity and it highlights a large and continuing shift in our climate,”said Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus. “Even if this specific streak of extremes ends at some point, we are bound to see new records being broken as the climate continues to warm. This is inevitable, unless we stop adding GHG (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere and the oceans.”

Under the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries agreed tolimit globalwarmingto2 degrees Celsius, but preferably1.5 degrees.Although the Paris target refersto warming overadecadeslong period,rather thana single month or year, scientistssay successive months breaching 1.5 degrees of warming signal the world is careening toward breaching the longer-term threshold.

Some of Earth’s ecosystems are expected to reach tipping points that may be difficult or impossible to recover from after the 1.5-degree threshold is breached, science shows. Many other ecosystems and species will struggle to adapt to warming closer to 2 degrees.

CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Rachel Ramirez and Angela Dewan contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly converted a temperature difference of 1.5 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit. It has been corrected.

Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East | CNN (2024)
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