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What are the causes of the heat wave in the West and what will happen in summer

2021-06-22T22:00:38.592Z

What is happening now "could be the tip of the iceberg," explains one expert. Similar conditions have not existed for 500 years, but why now?



By Anita Snow - The Associated Press

Much of the western United States is being battered by sweltering heat this week as a result of a combination of high pressure cover and the worst drought in modern history, 

which has caused triple-digit temperatures

, breaking records even before the start. official of the summer season.

Record highs were recorded daily this week in parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.

Phoenix, which features scorching conditions with one of the warmest climates in the West, hit 118 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday and the mercury is expected to hit 116 degrees this Friday and Saturday.

[Heat wave continues to break records: touching the car handle can cause third degree burns]

"Today [Friday] the dangerous record temperatures in the desert areas should continue with maximum temperatures well above normal," said the National Weather Service in Phoenix, Arizona, through the social network Facebook, which also suggested to the population that it was "a very good day to stay home."

Why is it so hot in the West?

The heat comes from a high pressure system in the west, a buckle in the narrow stream of winds moving across the United States and over vast terrain experiencing

a historic drought

, noted Marvin Percha, a meteorologist with the National Service in Phoenix

A construction worker repairs the roof of a house in Phoenix, Arizona, where high temperatures have been recorded.

AP

Both Percha and other scientists assert that the heat wave is unusual because it arrived earlier than normal and is staying longer than other years.

"In June 2020 things looked pretty normal," said Park Williams, a climate and fire scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The record heat waves occurred in August and September," he added. 

Thus, what is happening now "

could be the tip of the iceberg

," Williams added, referring to what is expected for the summer. 

What role do drought and climate change play?

Some scientists refer to these two decades of droughts as the “mega-drought” that absorbs moisture from the soil of much of the western United States.

Researchers in a study published last year in the journal

Science

pointed out that man-made climate change, linked to greenhouse gas emissions, may be responsible for about half of the historic drought.

[Texas asks to limit electricity consumption due to the risk of blackouts due to the extreme heat wave]

Scientists who analyzed the dry spell that began in 2000 looked at an area spanning nine states, from Oregon and Wyoming to California and New Mexico, but found another period that managed to overcome it by a small margin.

It is a drought that began in 1575, a decade after the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, and before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

The warm climate can be linked to the drought condition that dries out the landscape.

Normally, some of the heat emanating from the sun evaporates moisture from the soil, but scientists believe that

the soil of the American West is so arid that this energy makes the air even warmer

.

"When the soil is wet, heat waves are not as dangerous," said Williams, who has calculated that the soil located right in the middle of the western part of the country is the most arid since 1895. "If it is dry, we are low extreme risk, "he added.

What do forest fires have to do with all this?

Scientists claim that the wildfires recorded in recent days have been fueled by excessive heat in the region.

Climate change contributes to drought conditions and increases the likelihood that trees and shrubs will catch fire.

[USA.

it is probably the hottest place on the planet.

High temperatures affect more than 110 million people]

This week at least 14 fires were recorded in Montana and Wyoming as a result of record high temperatures.

Firefighters also had to fight fires in Arizona and New Mexico.

"In terms of fires, what could happen this year is certainly much more severe than what we have seen in the past," said Gina Palma, a fire meteorologist with the Department of Agriculture, on Thursday.  

Palma added that the risks associated with drought were especially pronounced at higher elevations in much of the West, from the Rocky Mountains to the Southwest and parts of California.

"We will see very extreme fire behavior under certain conditions that we would not normally see in June," he said.

As extreme heat rages in the west, a tropical storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico coast

June 18, 202102: 38

Is it a new normal?

According to Kristie L. Ebi, a professor at the Center for Global Health and Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle, a growing number of scientific studies conclude that heat waves in some cases can be directly attributed to climate change .

That means

the west of the country and the rest of the world may experience more extreme heat waves in the future

unless steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ebi and other scientists.

[Planet Earth: Art Projects Promote Ecological Education in Latin America]

A study conducted last month in 200 cities attributed more than 1,100 annual deaths to heat caused by climate change, accounting for about 35% of all heat deaths in the country.

What to do to protect yourself from the heat wave in the western US?

June 18, 202103: 07

Phoenix has an annual average of 23 climate-related heat deaths.

In Los Angeles the figure is 21 while in Tucson there are 13 deaths, according to the study.

"Climate change is hurting us at the moment.

It is a future problem, but it is also a current problem

," Ebi stressed.

Source: telemundo

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