Hell in Phoenix: City breaks record for 19 days with temperatures over 43 degrees | Climate and environment

Hell exists, and it’s in Phoenix. The Arizona city broke a half-century record on Tuesday: 19 days with temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius). By mid-day, the thermometer reached 46 degrees Celsius, and things would not ease for a week. On Friday, according to meteorologists, the worst is to come: a high of 48 degrees.

The furnace in which Phoenix’s 1.6 million people find themselves is due to the same combination that shatters heat records around the world: the sum of the effects of human-caused climate change and a weather phenomenon known as El Niño. According to Christopher Burt, an expert meteorologist quoted by the Associated Press, no other city in America’s 25 most populous cities was hit by such a wind.

In a forecast Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service warned, “The wave will continue across the region throughout this week and beyond. The agency classified each day of the rest of the week in the “high” category, the highest health risk. In 2022, 425 people died from heat in Phoenix. This year, 12 have been registered and 55 are under investigation, Maricopa County health officials said. The situation is particularly dire for the homeless who congregate in an area known as La Zona.

A thermometer read 115 degrees Fahrenheit on one of the highways leading into Phoenix on Monday.Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Network (via Reuters)

Records are also broken below. At night, the temperature in the city drops to only 33 degrees. So for neighbors without air conditioning, the worst comes at sunset: when the heat makes it impossible to sleep a wink, even the basic benefits of relaxation turn into luxury. On Monday, Phoenix broke the record for the highest minimum in history: 35 degrees. As a testament to the new climate normal, these figures contrast with March, which was the region’s coldest month in three decades, averaging a maximum of 22 degrees and a minimum of 10.5 degrees.

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Around 200 “cooling and hydration” centers (churches, schools, libraries…) have been installed in the metropolitan area to combat an unprecedented heat wave in America’s fifth-largest city, accustomed to merciless summers. The city created an agency in 2021 that specializes in combating the challenges of extreme heat.

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The problem is not just Phoenix. Weather stations across the U.S. have broken more than 860 heat records in the past seven days, according to the National Weather Service. (NOAA is its abbreviation in English).

Lack of rainfall in the city due to high temperatures has added to the crisis. The last precipitation recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, a reference point for the National Weather Service, was March 22. That is, almost four months ago, i.e. 118 days. The rainy season, which brings afternoon relief to places like Florida, didn’t come as planned this year either. A storm moved south of Tucson on Monday, with winds of 60 kilometers per hour, but hurricane relief did not reach the capital.

In early June, the Democratic-governed state decided it didn’t have enough water for all the housing projects planned in the Phoenix area, a city that has been growing relentlessly, especially since the pandemic, posting positive net migration numbers and becoming the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. Officials ordered some of these projects to be put on hold until further notice.

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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