A heat wave has baked parts of the Southwest for weeks. Forecasters warn it’s not cooling soon

Jul 12, 2023, 4:27 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — Millions of people across the Southwest are living through a historic heat wave, with even the heat-experienced desert city of Phoenix being tested since temperatures have hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) for 13 consecutive days.

More than 111 million people across the United States were under extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings, The National Weather Service reported Wednesday. Huge swaths of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California were experiencing temperatures above 90 degrees F (32 C).

“To underscore just how expansive this heat is, based off the current forecast approximately 27 million people across the Lower 48 (states) will experience an air temperature or heat index above 110 (degrees F) over the next 7 days,” the National Weather Service said in a separate bulletin. “It is imperative users take action to limit their exposure to the oppressive hot weather as it looks to stick around for the time being.”

Forecasters in Phoenix said the long-duration heat wave is extremely dangerous for people’s health and could persist into next week as a high pressure dome moves westerly from Texas into central California.

Temperatures in Phoenix, America’s hottest large city, are forecast to hit between 108 to 115 degrees F (42 to 46 C) on Thursday and as high as 111 to 119 degrees F (44 to 48 C) over the weekend. The city’s overnight low for July 12 hit a record high of 94 degrees (over 34 C) Wednesday morning, which means temperatures may not be falling enough to let people recover after dark.

Phoenix is an urban heat island where concrete, asphalt, steel and tall buildings constructed closely together result in heat accumulation. Because of this, temperatures don’t drop quickly after the sun sets.

“It’s important for the temperatures to go down at night to offer relief to people needing to recover from the daytime heat,” said Sean Benedict, lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

David Hondula, chief heat officer for the city of Phoenix, noted Wednesday that “any long period without a break from the heat is dangerous.” He said the duration of the heat wave was “notable.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Phoenix had sweltered through 13 consecutive days of 110 degrees F (43 degrees C) or higher when the mercury soared to 111 degrees F (44 C), according to the weather service. The longest recorded stretch of 110 degree-plus temperatures for the city is 18 days, which was recorded in 1974.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Thursday, temperatures are forecast to hit 101 degrees F (over 38 C). On Saturday, temperatures are expected to climb to 109 degrees F (over 42 C) in inland areas of Southern California including San Bernardino.

This weekend, Las Vegas could see temperatures reach between 116 and 118 degrees F (46 and more than 47 C), the weather service said.

With no end in sight, this week El Paso, Texas, endured its 27th consecutive day of 100-plus degree (38 C) temperatures on Wednesday. The previous record for consecutive triple-digit highs was 23 days in 1994, when an all-time high of 114 degrees F (45.5 C) was recorded.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Zak Aronson, a national weather service meteorologist in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. “It’s never happened here before in recorded history.”

He said temperature records for the area date back to 1887.

How Phoenix handles the extreme weather could become a model for other cities, especially those that are less accustomed to high temperatures but are now roiled by heat waves fueled by drought and climate change.

Two years ago, the city of Phoenix opened a small office with an annual budget of about $1 million to oversee heat response and mitigation. Since then, it has planted more shade trees; designed cool, white roadways to deflect heat; and expanded shelters for homeless people who have accounted for half of Phoenix metro’s heat-associated deaths.

Arizona’s Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, reported this week that so far this year there have been 12 confirmed heat-associated deaths going back to April, half of them people who were homeless. Another 55 deaths are under investigation.

There were 425 confirmed heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County last year, with more than half of them occurring in July. Eighty percent of the deaths occurred outside.

Fueling the current heat wave is the delayed arrival of this year’s monsoon rains. The season officially begins on June 15 and can bring powerful storms with bursts of precipitation.

Despite the extreme heat, Arizona’s largest county of 4.5 million people had the biggest gain in overall population of any U.S. county last year, with a jump to almost 57,000 new residents, mostly from people moving from other states.


Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.

National News

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life added fresh uncertainty to an already tumultuous presidential campaign.

15 minutes ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday,...

Will Weissert and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden says country must not go down road of political violence

President Joe Biden says “we can’t, we must not go down” the road of political violence in America after the attempted Trump assassination.

44 minutes ago

Gov. Greg Abbott receives a briefing for Hurricane Beryl from local elected officials Sunday, July ...

Associated Press

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demands answers as customers remain without power after Beryl

DALLAS (AP) — With around 350,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he’s demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms. “Power […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Acclaimed video artist Bill Viola dies at 73, created landmark `Tristan und Isolde’ production

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Bill Viola, a video artist who combined with director Peter Sellars on a groundbreaking production of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” originally seen in Los Angeles, Paris and New York, has died at age 73. Viola died Friday at his home in Long Beach of Alzheimer’s disease, his website announced. What […]

5 hours ago

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, July 13, 202...

Associated Press

Biden tries to balance his condemnation of the attack on Trump with the ongoing 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security and law enforcement officials were briefing President Joe Biden on Sunday about the apparent assassination attempt on his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the White House continued to call for national unity and condemn the stunning act of violence. Vice President Kamala Harris was joining Biden for an update from top […]

9 hours ago

FILE - President Ronald Reagan waves and then looks up before being shoved into the President's lim...

Associated Press

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and his response changed the trajectory of his presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The would-be assassin got off six shots in 1.7 seconds, nearly taking the life of a president and changing the trajectory of a presidency. It happened on a dreary March afternoon in 1981. President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel after giving a speech to a union group when John […]

11 hours ago

A heat wave has baked parts of the Southwest for weeks. Forecasters warn it’s not cooling soon