Heatwaves threaten 100 million in US as Texas grid warns of record power use again

·4-min read
Heatwaves threaten 100 million in US as Texas grid warns of record power use again

Extreme heat advisories and warnings have now spread to over 100 million Americans as vast swaths of the South — as well as parts of California and the Northeast — face skyrocketing temperatures this week.

In the Texas and Oklahoma region, temperatures will get up above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), with areas around Dallas hitting up to 110F (43C), says the National Weather Service (NWS).

This latest heatwave comes as Texas electricity grid officials expect record power use again this week. The previous record was set just last week, Reuters reports.

Excessive heat warnings have been issued for this week in most of eastern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, where daily highs will routinely reach around 100F every day for the next week. The Dallas area also has a very high risk of wildfires today, as temperature rises couple with low humidity and winds, NWS says.

The Central Valley of California, which will also see routine temperatures well above 100F this week, also has an excessive heat warning.

In the Northeast, temperatures are high today and will stay high throughout the week, with heat advisories starting on Wednesday. NWS has warned that high temperatures — coupled with high humidity — could lead to conditions feeling like 100F in some areas.

Under these conditions, officials urge people to stay hydrated, remain indoors and air conditioned when possible, and check up on vulnerable people, such as the elderly.

In Texas, this newest week of heat could prompt further electricity use records — during a summer that has already seen various state’s electricity use records fall. By Wednesday, the grid could reach over 81,770 megawatts of use, Reuters reports.

Officials from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who manages the state’s grid, have said they expect there will be enough supply, Reuters adds.

But last week, Bloomberg has reported concerns that this summer’s constant intense power demands could push the power generation system into dangerous territory.

Demand needs have forced power plants to delay maintenance, which some people are worried could lead to breaks or long-term issues, the outlet reports.

Increased power needs have come in part from the state’s population growth, increasing extreme weather and the rise of cryptocurrency mining, which can use an extraordinary amount of power, Bloomberg adds.

Power needs can spike during heatwaves as people turn to air conditioning to stay cool and safe amid punishing temperatures.

Unlike much of the rest of the country, most of Texas has its own power grid. And ERCOT has come under fire before, especially during last year’s February 2021 winter storms — in which partial failure of the power system in the state lead to extended blackouts.

And heatwaves are expected to become both more frequent and more intense as the climate crisis grows. According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the world warms toward 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, heatwaves that once occurred every 10 years will now happen about once every other year.

These changes aren’t limited to rare and intense events either — even more common hotter days are becoming more frequent as the planet warms up. This week, some high and low temperatures across the country have been made at least five times more likely to occur due to planetary warming, according to the Climate Shift Index, a tool from the non-profit Climate Central.

Outside the US, heatwaves are currently raging across much of Europe too, bringing health risks and fires as temperatures records fall.

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