California's Death Valley heat to reach a searing 53ºC

Children cool off at the Grand Park splash pad in downtown Los Angeles, California on June 19, 2017. — AFP pic
Children cool off at the Grand Park splash pad in downtown Los Angeles, California on June 19, 2017. — AFP pic

LOS ANGELES, June 20 — In Death Valley in eastern California and in the town of Needles near the Arizona border, temperatures are expected to reach 53ºCelsius this week, National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Fisher said yesterday.

The extreme heat, brought on by a high-pressure system camped over the Four Corners region, has already boosted temperatures above normal across much of the Southwest, with the worst forecast today and tomorrow.

The heat wave was expected to push temperatures even higher by mid-week, taxing power grids and prompting airlines to warn that flights could be disrupted.

Fisher said the sweltering weather could break records in some areas but was part of a cyclical pattern and not brought on by climate change or any other unusual phenomenon.

“It’s not unprecedented at all, things oscillate around,” he said.

“We’ve had a fairly cool spring, had ‘May Gray’ and ‘June Gloom’, this our first real warmth of the season.”

Temperatures were expected to drop by five to about 2.5ºC to 5ºC later in the week but in the meantime the National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings and advisories across the Southwest.

Even in typically cooler San Francisco, residents baked in sultry 31ºC.

The National Park Service in Death Valley, known as the hottest place in America, cautioned tourists about the “EXTREME SUMMER HEAT” in a warning on its website.

“Expect high temperatures of 38°C to over 49°C. Drink plenty of water and carry extra. Avoid hiking (after 10am). Travel prepared to survive. In the case of a heat related illness, get to a cool place and seek help ASAP!” the park service said.

“Temperatures like this happen less than once per year on avg. High risk of heat illness if doing strenuous activity outdoors,” the Phoenix office of the National Weather Service said in a tweet yesterday morning.

There were no reports of severe heat-related illnesses as yesterday afternoon. Power grid operators and utility companies urged customers to conserve electricity at peak times to avoid the possibility of blackouts.

American Airlines advised passengers flying in or out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that the intense heat, which can affect the operation of jet airline engines, could cause flight delays or cancellations.

The airline said that Phoenix passengers with flights scheduled to arrive or depart between 3pm and 6pm local time would be allowed to change their travel plans without incurring additional fees.

A study in the journal Nature Climate Change published yesterday said that the number of extreme heat waves was expected to climb to affect half of the Earth’s population by the year 2100. — Reuters

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