Dangerous heat will grip swathes of the US through the middle of this week after soaring temperatures contributed to an explosion of wildfires across the West this weekend.
Well-above normal to potentially record-breaking temperatures are expected in the east in the coming days, according to forecasters from the National Weather Service (NWS). Nearly 100 million people were under heat advisories and excessive heat warnings.
Temperatures could hit triple digits with extreme conditions linked to the climate crisis taking hold before summer officially begins.
In recent days, people have been warned to stay indoors due to dangerous heat, and take precautions at night as temperatures have failed to significantly cool off.
Heat-related deaths kill more people in the US than all other climate-linked and weather disasters combined. More than 11,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979 - and it’s likely the number is underestimated.
Heat will gather over the Tennessee Valley on Monday, and continue to build as it moves into the Carolinas and coastal Georgia. It will move northeast to the upper Mississippi Valley, western Great Lakes, and Ohio Valley, and persist over the southern Mid Atlantic and Southeast on Tuesday.
The extreme heat is expected to be sustained through Wednesday with many areas experiencing record highs, NWS reported.
Major cities in the Southwest and California’s Death Valley posted record temperatures on Saturday. Phoenix hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius), tying a record set in 1918, according to NWS.
Meanwhile Denver, Colorado hit 100F (38C) at the earliest point in the year ever. Las Vegas soared to 109F (43C), tieing a record from 1956.
In California’s Death Valley, 11 June hit a new record: A blistering 122F (50C).
Several fires exploded over the weekend in the Southwest as the scorching temperatures baked the region.
The Pipeline Fire started on Sunday close to Flagstaff, Arizona. It has burned through about 4,500 acres — nearly six times the size of New York City’s Central Park — and prompted widespread evacuations.
Red flag warnings remained in place on Monday for large portions of southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northern and central Arizona and New Mexico. Dry and windy conditions were threatening to rapidly spread fires across these areas.
After heat blasted much of California and parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon, cooler temperatures swept in Monday.
Storms are also forecast to form near a warm front lifting across the Ohio Valley into the southern Great Lakes region on Monday, which have the potential to become severe events, with large hail, damaging winds, and a few tornadoes possible.
On Tuesday, strong to severe thunderstorms would be possible in the northern Plains into the Upper Midwest, and also across portions of the Mid Atlantic into the Carolinas.
The climate crisis is behind the extreme heat being felt in parts of the US, where the Southwest is the fastest-warming region after Alaska.
Recent years have brought a grim march of triple-digit temperature records and a prolonged “megadrought” resulting in massive biodiversity loss and ushering in a transformation that will impact how people live for generations.