John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
With temperatures as high as 120 degrees, it’s a good time to stay indoors.
The coming days will not be a time for Southwesterners to hike, bike, or do much of anything except camp in front of the A/C with the blinds closed. Brutally hot temperatures are expected to wash over the region, creating intolerable conditions of up to 120 degrees in Arizona and shattering records going back more than two decades.
The culprit for the heat wave is a strong blob of high pressure that’s expected to squat over the Southwest, squeezing the mercury ever-higher starting Friday. The 115-120 degrees predicted during the peak of the roasting would “set new records Sunday and Monday at many locations,” according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix, which provides this forecast of the “rare, dangerous, and deadly” heat:
The service adds high temps could potentially rival the heat wave of June 1990, which saw airplanes being grounded for fear they wouldn’t have enough air lift and engine power to take off. The Christian Science Monitor relates:
In June 1990, when Phoenix hit 122 degrees, airlines were forced to cease flights for several hours because of a lack of data from the manufacturers on how the aircraft would operate in such extreme heat.
US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline now knows that its Boeings can fly at up to 126 degrees, and its Airbus fleet can operate at up to 127.
Authorities recommend people keep their outdoor activities limited to before 10 a.m., chug plenty of fluids, and stay in cool environments like libraries or the mall. And as always, don’t walk barefoot on pavement—even 110-degree temperatures can cause second-degree burns on bare flesh and prompt skin grafts.