The intensity of this heatwave was unrivalled — as daily, monthly and even all-time heat records were shattered.
In total, nearly 1,400 heat records have been broken in the US over the past seven days. The records are just another reminder of the unprecedented extremes that the climate crisis is bringing.
Data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows just how many records have fallen over the past seven days.
In total, 622 places saw their highest ever temperatures for that calendar day. On Thursday, for example, the high temperature at Los Angeles International Airport reached 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius), breaking the previous record for 8 September by at least 4F.
But it wasn’t just daily highs that broke records — some places saw their highest-ever daily low temperatures. Daily low temperatures usually occur in the middle of the night, and while they may not seem as important during a heatwave, they can be crucial to health and safety.
If people aren’t given a chance to cool down at night, heatwaves can become even more severe and there’s more risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion. In addition, if it’s still 90F (32C) after it gets dark, people are going to keep running their air conditioners late into the night, adding more stress to the electrical grid.
California’s grid faced record-high demand this week, prompting fears of rolling blackouts if supply couldn’t keep up.
Some places even broke their all-time hottest records this week. On Tuesday, downtown Sacramento California reached 116F (47C) which is the hottest temperature ever recorded in the city on any date of any year. The Sacramento area has broken daily heat records throughout the week.
More than 200 places in the US also saw all-time high temperatures for the month of September, according to NOAA.
Some of these records came from outside California, too. Salt Lake City matched its all-time record high on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. And September record highs were broken in parts of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota, the paper adds.
NOAA’s data on record-breaking temperatures shows the stark impact of the climate crisis. In the past year, 67 places in the US have witnessed their hottest temperatures ever — compared to just three places that have seen their coldest-ever temperatures.
As the climate crisis grows, temperatures are going to keep rising, and more records should expect to fall.
A United Nations climate science panel has warned that if the world reaches 2C of warming above 19th-century temperatures, heatwaves that used to occur once every 50 years would occur every three or four years — and get 2.7C hotter.
Already, the world has warmed about 1.1-1.2C above 19th-century temperatures.