Officially it’s almost fall, but the oppressive heat continues to ravage the low-lying deserts of California and Arizona. On Saturday, Phoenix set a new record as the city experienced its 54th day of temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit this year.
Temperatures reportedly reached 113 degrees in Phoenix’s sprawling metroplex by 4 p.m. Saturday. The previous record of 53 days at over 110 degrees was set in 2020.
Earlier this summer, the city had a 31-day streak of more than 110 days, breaking the previous record of 18 consecutive days.
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is also on track to reach a grimmer milestone: a record for annual heat-related deaths. As of Wednesday, the province had counted 194 such fatalities so far in 2023, and another 351 deaths are under investigation to determine a link to the heat. At this point in 2022, there had been 153 confirmed heat-related deaths, with 238 still under investigation. Last year’s final tally of 425 heat-related deaths is the highest in a calendar year since the province began keeping the numbers in 2006.
More than half of heat-related deaths so far in 2023 have occurred among people who are homeless (44%) or have an unknown living situation (10%).
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department closes popular hiking trails from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning. On Thursday, the agency issued just such a warning, saying there will be “a period of very high temperatures, even by local standards.” Anyone wanting to hike Phoenix’s iconic Camelback Mountain this weekend will need to get there early in the morning or later in the evening.
Not just one city’s problem
The danger extends beyond Phoenix’s concrete-laden metroplex, with Tucson, Yuma, Palm Springs and places in between also under an extreme heat warning this weekend.
Many heat records in the western US tend to compete with previous records from the past decade. Climate change and rising surface temperatures have accelerated dramatically in the 21st century, increasing the risk of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and stronger storms.
Solar physicist Keith Strong noted on Twitter Thursday that record high temperatures around the world are tripling record lows.
“Over the past week, Earth has hit 1,178 new daily record temperatures, compared to just 351 new record lows,” Strong said. “If the climate were in climate balance, these two figures should be statistically equivalent, but that is not the case.”
How to stay cool and survive
The National Weather Service urges anyone in a region with excessive heat to stay hydrated, avoid sun exposure during the day, wear light, loose clothing and seek air conditioning.
For more information on what types of clothing can help you beat the heat, check out our detailed guide to staying cool.
Forecasters warn that fans may not be enough to handle temperatures above 110 degrees this weekend, but access to air conditioning is not guaranteed for everyone in the Southwest. Luckily, we’ve rounded up 10 ways to get by without air conditioning when temperatures rise.
And if you do have to rely on a fan, proper placement is crucial to get the most out of it and keep sweating at bay.
Liquids without alcohol, sugar and caffeine are also more hydrating, as is eating smaller meals more often.
Be sure to check with friends, family, neighbors and pets to see how they are coping.
Many communities will offer public cooling shelters, including in the Heat Relief Network in Phoenix and Arizona. Contact your local provincial or municipal government for other resources.
Finally, if you are in a heat zone, take a moment to know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke can be fatal, so check out our guide on the signs, causes and what to do in such a scenario.