Dog days of August: As the Northeast swelters, the Southwest bakes
If you think it’s hot now, just wait. Heat waves are becoming more frequent globally. But how do we measure heat waves? We explain.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
As folks in the northeastern part of the U.S. sweat through heat and humidity in the next couple of days, they’ll have a bit of consolation – at least they’re not in the West.
The western portion of the country will by socked by record-challenging temperatures for the next week to 10 days, with the heat wave possibly stretching into typically cooler northwestern states like Washington and Oregon.
That’s according to AccuWeather meteorologist Randy Adkins, who estimated more than 100 million Americans will experience temperatures above average for this time of year in the early part of the week. Some of the sweltering spots will include large swaths of the south as well.
“Broadly speaking, much of the Southwest and Intermountain West will be challenging records through the early-and-midweek period next week,’’ Adkins said. “Some locations stand a fair chance to break them, particularly in the Southwest.’’
Of course, the mercury rising in mid-August fits into the “Dog bites man’’ news category, not the other way around, but some of the numbers are eye-popping even for normally broiling spots like Phoenix and Las Vegas, where the average high these days tops 100 degrees.
The Arizona capital in particular seems primed to set a new standard, with forecasts calling for 113 degrees Tuesday and 114 Wednesday. Both would break marks for the day in Phoenix, the Aug. 20 figure of 112 tracing as far back as 1986.
By comparison, northeastern cities like New York (90), Boston (90) and Philadelphia (94) are getting off lightly, although Adkins warned that once the high humidity is factored in, the actual sensation is like being exposed to temperatures in triple digits.
And while the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (mid-90s Monday through Wednesday) will benefit from the chilling effects of a cold front later in the week, the Southwest can expect no such respite.
Of course, residents of that region are used to that by now.
“This isn’t anything I’m looking at and is making me think, ‘Wow, what the heck is going on?’ It’s summer, this happens,’’ Adkins said. “It’s a little more uncommon to have as many days in the West when temperatures are going to be well above average, but it’s not yet to the point where I’d be alarmed by it.’’
You wouldn’t normally associate Anchorage, Alaska with record heat, but that’s been the case for the last 11 days, The National Weather Service says there have been nine new daily high temperature records set in the last 11 days in Anchorage. (July 10) AP, AP
What might be more alarming is the unusual weather witnessed this summer in Alaska, where the average July temperature of 58.1 was 5.4 degrees above average. Even more noteworthy, the state’s largest city, Anchorage, hit 90 degrees for the first time ever, and this summer has had 30 days of at least 75 degrees, double the previous record.
More seasonal highs in the mid-60s are expected for the next two weeks. Adkins said Alaska in general is prone to extremes and can get locked into patterns that persist for 3-4 weeks at a time. He opted to steer clear of discussions about whether the higher temperatures this summer are the result of climate change.
But Adkins did say long-range projections show well above-average temperatures through August and well into September in parts of the country, especially California, which should serve as a reminder for people not to leave unattended children or pets in cars on hot days.
According to the National Safety Council, 32 children under age 15 have died of heatstroke this year, well on the way to surpassing the annual average of 38 and just short of the pace that would match the 53 from 2018, the worst year on record.
Adkins said the high temperatures commonly associated with summer may well continue in the early fall.
“I think it’s likely we’re going to see more record events into September as well,’’ he said.