Prolonged heat to bake southwestern, central US
A wildfire forced lanes along Interstate 405 to close in Los Angeles, California, on July 5, as it burned along the highway, reducing visibility.
July is climatologically the hottest month of the year for much of the continental United States, and while many residents are used to summer heat, the prolonged and intense nature of the upcoming heat wave may take some by surprise.
"Moving forward into the middle of July, the jet stream is forecast to change shape in such a way as to cause a large northward bulge over the Southwest," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Meteorologists warn that heat will likely reach dangerous levels for portions of the Southwest and Plains later this week.
"This forecast setup produces what is called a high pressure area at most levels of the atmosphere," Sosnowski explained. "During the summer, similar patterns have resulted in day after day of blistering heat and sunshine with little to no rainfall."
Heat will gradually build through early week, with high temperatures across the Southwest, as well as the southern and central Plains trending 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above average by midweek.
Noticeably uncomfortable heat will arrive by Thursday for many locations and stick around for Friday before the weekend takes a turn to scorching.
Upper 90s and 100s will be common from the Desert Southwest to the southern and central Plains by Thursday, while 90s expand into the northern Plains Friday. Even Denver will flirt with its first day of triple-digit heat of 2020 on Friday.
Heat will skyrocket across the Southwest and much of the nation's midsection on Saturday. Unfortunately, for those hoping for a only a brief stint of unseasonably hot weather, this level of heat will not be in a hurry to exit the area.
"Temperature departures can reach 10-14 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and approach record highs during the weekend and into next week," AccuWeather's Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "Temperatures in some locations can reach over 100 degrees for three or four days."
One such location is Wichita, Kansas, where daytime high temperatures typically average in the low 90s for mid-July. Wichita will likely record its second 100-degree day of the year by Thursday or Friday and then record a handful of even hotter days in quick succession.
Farther south and west, Phoenix hit 110 on July 4 and is unlikely to record a daytime high temperature under that threshold until late next week. High temperature records may even be in jeopardy for Phoenix on Sunday and Monday as the city approaches 115 degrees both days.
During this time, any kind of rainfall will be scarce across the regions, which will not help to alleviate ongoing drought concerns.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, portions of the Four Corners region, as well as the southern and central Plains, are currently under moderate to extreme drought.
"Areas across some Plains states rely on large complexes of thunderstorms to fill reservoirs and water crops," Sosnowski said. "These have occurred, but they have been very sparse and generally limited to the northern half of the Plains."
Residents unprepared for prolonged, intense heat may quickly find themselves victims of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Drinking plenty of water and limiting outdoor activities to the early morning or evening hours when conditions are cooler can help to reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
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