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Surviving the Scorch: Coping with Phoenix's Unrelenting Heatwave

 Surviving the Scorch: Coping with Phoenix's Unrelenting Heatwave

Surviving the Scorch: Coping with Phoenix's
Surviving the Scorch: Coping with Phoenix's(Image-Getty)

Michael Shields, an experienced swimming pool service provider in Phoenix, has developed a well-practiced routine to cope with the scorching heat that engulfs the Arizona desert city every summer.

His day begins at 4 a.m., as he prepares himself by donning protective attire, consuming electrolyte drinks, and generously applying sunscreen to his hands and face. Armed against the blazing sun, he reaches his first customer's residence well before dawn, even when the temperature already reaches the mid-90s Fahrenheit.

During the summer months, the mercury often soars above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in this region. However, the past two weeks have witnessed an unrelenting heatwave, with temperatures consistently surpassing 110 degrees F (43 C) every afternoon. Meteorologists predict this extreme heat streak could extend into the following week, breaking Phoenix's record of 18 consecutive days set in 1974.

A significant portion of the United States, spanning from Oregon to Texas, is currently under heat warnings due to an intense heatwave affecting the West and Southwest regions. This weather phenomenon results from a high-pressure system that prevents rainfall, creating a dome of hot air. Situated right beneath this dome, Phoenix has already experienced a temperature of 109 F (43 C) by noon on Saturday, with projections reaching as high as 115 F (46 C) and potentially 116 F (47 C) on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

The severity of this heatwave has caused concern among many Phoenix residents, even those accustomed to enduring sweltering summers, such as Shields. He confesses to avoiding news reports about the extreme weather, as he doesn't want to become mentally overwhelmed.

Climate Check, an organization specializing in climate-related real estate analysis, reported that between 1985 and 2005, Phoenix typically encountered around seven days each year with temperatures exceeding 109 F (43 C). However, they estimate that by 2050, Phoenix inhabitants could expect an average of 44 such scorching days annually.

Tragically, heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, have risen over the past years. The numbers climbed from 338 in 2021 to 425 in the previous year. In 2023 alone, there have already been 12 heat-related deaths, with 55 cases still under investigation.

To address the dangers of extreme heat, emergency service personnel and a government office dedicated to heat response and mitigation have distributed bottled water to homeless individuals and encouraged them to seek refuge in various public cooling stations. In response to the current heatwave, some cooling stations have extended their operating hours into the night, as shared by David Hondula, director of the city's Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

Moreover, the city has increased its volunteer force, nearly doubling the number of individuals distributing water, hats, and sunscreen. Additionally, plans are underway to provide grants that support tree planting initiatives, aiming to create more shaded areas and combat rising temperatures.

To ensure public safety, hiking trails at nearby Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain have been closed during the hottest parts of the day. Adam Waltz, a spokesperson for Phoenix Parks and Recreation, explained that temperatures on exposed sections of the trails can reach a scorching 130 to 140 degrees (54 to 60 C) due to the direct sunlight and radiating heat from the ground.

Outdoor children's sports activities have also adapted to the punishing summers, concluding around June and resuming in September, shared Waltz.

Despite the prevailing nonchalance of Phoenix residents towards the heat, Waltz expressed concerns about the long-term warming trend. With nights that fail to provide relief and heat-absorbing surfaces like asphalt and concrete, temperatures continue to rise. This worrying trend has prompted the need for vigilance, as temperatures exceeding 113 or 114 degrees F (45 degrees C) make outsiders gasp, while Phoenix residents usually seek cover at 118 or 119 degrees F (48 or 48.3 degrees C). Undoubtedly, the extreme heat poses significant risks to safety and well-being.

High temperatures can have detrimental effects on health, leading to exhaustion, dizziness, thirst, or, in severe cases, heatstroke, when the body's core temperature exceeds 105 degrees F (40 degrees C).

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