A record-breaking heat wave wrapped large portion of the US Southwest and parts of California over the last couple of days. Numerous new temperature records have been set in San Diego County alone while the hot and dry conditions fueled spreading of several wildfires across the affected areas. At least 4 people died due to heat-related conditions in Southern California only.
Scorching conditions resulted from a large high-pressure system, extending all the way from the Texas plains to the far western California. The so-called 'heat dome' weather system, which happens when the hot air, capped by the upper atmosphere, returns to the surface, can cause scorching heat conditions, according to Rache Aissem, a CNN Meteorologist.
Image credit: NOAA/NWS
Excessive heat warnings have been issued across the Southwest and southern California while several temperature records were tumbled.
According to the NWS, 42.7 °C (109 °F) was recorded in Ramona on June 20, 2016, which toppled the previous day record from 2008 by 1.6 °C (3 °F). 41.1 °C (106 °F) was measured in Escondido, 1.1 °C (2 °F) higher than the old record from 1973; 41.6 °C (107 °F) was reported in Alpine, tying a record from 1973, and El Cajon, breaking an old record of 34.4 °C (94 °F) set in 2007.
Chula Vista recorded 32.7 °C (91 °F), topping the 29.4 °C (85 °F) measured in 2008; 35.5 °C (96 °F) was observed in Palomar Mountain, a temperature 2.2 °C (4 °F) higher than the 2015 record; and Campo hit 43.3 °C (110 °F), 2.7 °C (5 °F) higher than reported in 2008. 48 °C (118.4 °F) was recorded in Palm Springs, according to media reports.
“The past two years were the warmest on record in California, but this is still unusual for June. It only happens about once every 10 years. We usually don’t get heat like this until August or September. And it comes when we’re in a drought, and the moisture in vegetation is much drier than it normally is,” said Alex Tardy, a forecaster at the National Weather Service.
43.8 °C (111 °F) was recorded in the Burbank city, also setting a new record. The highest temperature on June 20 was reported in Death Valley with mercuries hitting 52.2 °C (126 °F), according to the NWS.
Several intense wildfires were fueled across the Southwest on June 21, following several consecutive days of hot and dry conditions.
The Juniper Fire in Arizona, currently 30% contained has been active for over a month, the North Fire in New Mexico, 30% contained and burning for almost a month and the Jack Fire in Arizona, also 30% contained have burned down over 30 000 acres by June 21.
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The Cedar Fire in Arizona burned 26 739 acres and was reported 40% contained, the Dog Head Fire in New Mexico, 46% contained, burned 17 891 acres while the Sherpa Fire in California, 62% contained to date, scorched 7 893 acres.
On June 20, another wildfire, named the Reservoir Fire, started in the San Gabirel Canyon, California, and has already burned down at least 1 500 acres. The Fish Fire, which started in Fish Canyon, scorched 3 000 acres and had not been contained so far. About 700 firefighters are currently fighting the two blazes.
Residents of the San Diego and Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate.
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Six people were reported dead in Arizona, five in Phoenix, and three near Tucson over the weekend of June 18.
Power grid operators in California warned residents to conserve electricity as much as possible and wait until the evening hours to turn on major electric appliances, due to severely overloaded power network.
According to the forecasters, the temperatures have started to drop to more bearable values, as of June 21. However, residents are encouraged to take all the heat precautions, nevertheless.
Featured image credit: CBSN