Extreme heat to hit millions of Americans this weekend as Texas energy grid under stress again

·3-min read
Extreme heat to hit millions of Americans this weekend as Texas energy grid under stress again

Extreme heat once again threatens vast parts of the southern and western United States, with temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) expected over the weekend and into next week.

This new round of heat, just the latest this summer, comes just days after Texas energy officials issued appeals to residents to conserve electricity as the state’s grid reached up toward capacity.

The National Weather Service (NWS) encouraged those currently under heat advisories to stay hydrated, look for air conditioning and check up on potentially vulnerable people like the elderly.

The wave is another reminder of the heat that will likely become more common as the climate crisis continues to warm the planet.

On Friday, temperatures are expected to reach around 108F (42C) in parts of Kansas, with additional hot weather stretching down into Oklahoma and northern Texas. In parts of Arizona and California, some of the hottest corners of the country, temperatures will likely reach around 112F (44C).

Hot weather would continue through the weekend in the central and southern Plains, pushing further south into Texas and north into the Dakotas by Monday. Temperatures above 100F (38C) are expected for much of the region, with temperatures around 10-15F above normal in some places, NWS forecasts.

The NWS tweeted that excessive heat would strike at some point in the next few days along a wide corridor stretching from the southern border in Texas up to the northern border in Montana.

In addition to hot temperatures, the head index — indicating a combination of temperatures and humidity — will reach into “dangerous” territory, per the NWS. In parts of the central plains centred around Oklahoma and Kansas, a heat advisory is in effect for Friday and Saturday, with heat indices will reach well above 100F.

Down in Texas, temperatures will reach over 100F in much of the state over the weekend and into next week — including in major urban areas around Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

This week, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages most the state’s energy grid, asked customers to conserve power twice as electricity supply got tight, NBC 5 in Dallas reported.

Those calls were spurred by “record high” electricity demand, according to ERCOT, along with reduced wind and solar generation and “forced thermal outages”.

Electricity use can soar during heatwaves as people ramp up their air conditioners to stay cool and out of harm’s way.

Texas, unlike most other states, essentially has its own power grid. The grid famously came under scrutiny after winter storms in February 2021, where millions of people lost power. A major reason for those blackouts was a failure to winterize some natural gas infrastructure, the Texas Tribune reported.

Elsewhere in the world, many countries are battling extreme heat also, as high temperatures pummel parts of Europe and Asia. The Independent reports that the UK has issued a heatwave emergency as skyrocketing temperatures hit the nation.

As high humidity and high temperatures combine, the human body has a harder time cooling itself, potentially leading to health concerns. These situations can cause heat stress and illness if temperatures are too hot for too long, NWS notes.

And dangerous heat events are likely to become more common as greenhouse gases continue to warm the planet and accelerate the climate crisis.

Extreme heat events that once occurred every ten years will occur about every other year as the world reaches 2 degrees C of warming above 19th century temperatures, according to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a leading authority on climate science.

If the world warms even further, those heatwaves are likely to become even more common, IPCC adds. Currently, the world is on track for around 2.7C of warming by 2100, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis of global climate policies.

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