The first significant heat wave of 2019 in the U.S. has parts of the West feeling like it’s Memorial Day weekend already, but it’s only a few days past Easter. Several record highs were reported by the National Weather Service (NWS) yesterday, April 23, with more expected through this Friday.
Yesterday in northern California, the temperature in downtown Sacramento hit 90° for the first time this year. Also, the high of 93° at Redding Municipal Airport (ICAO code: KRDD) broke the daily record set just a year ago, and is 20 degrees above normal for this time of the year. The high of 90° at Sacramento Executive Airport (ICAO code: KSAC) broke the daily record that stood for 57 years. Record high temperatures in the lower and mid-90s could be set again in these cities on Thursday and Friday, as well as in Modesto and Stockton.
In the southern part of the Central Valley, in places such as Bakersfield and Fresno, record highs of 100° or more aren’t likely. However, temperatures are forecast to be in the lower 90s, around 15 degrees above normal.
Farther south in Death Valley, highs will crack the 100-degree mark for the next three days. Typical highs at this point in the year should be 93° or 94°, and highs don’t usually reach 100° until mid-May in a normal year. But record highs above 100° have occurred as early as mid-March. Forecasters at the NWS are projecting temperatures of 105° to 108° Wednesday through Friday, which will be close to daily records, but may not tie or break them. The hottest April temperature in Death Valley was 113°, recorded on April 24, 1946 and again on April 22, 2012.
Temperatures in Las Vegas will soar into the mid-90s, coming just a few degrees shy of setting records, but these highs will be around 15 degrees above normal. Temperatures in nearby Lake Havasu City will likely reach 100°, with near-record highs around 90° in Bishop, California and Kingman, Arizona.
A new April 23 record high of 101° was set yesterday in Thermal, California, breaking the old record of a year ago by one degree. Highs in Thermal and the nearby city of Palm Springs are forecast to tie or break records the next few days, reaching just above 100°. This is 15 degrees above normal.
Temperatures in Phoenix will flirt with record levels, too, reaching the upper 90s through the rest of the week. Record highs for the Valley of the Sun for April 24, 25 and 26 are 102°, 100° and 101°, respectively.
The surge in heat is due to very dry high pressure extending into the upper atmosphere over the region. This high pressure will stay parked there for a few days, suppressing cloud cover and precipitation. Dry air heats up much more than humid air, and desert surfaces, as well as valleys, absorb more heat than mountains and forests. Temperatures will cool down over the weekend in most of the areas previously mentioned as the high pressure ridge weakens.
On average, from 2009 to 2018, heat caused more deaths per year than any other type of weather. The NWS hasn’t issued any Heat Advisories for the region, but people still need to be careful while outdoors. There’s a moderate to high risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke for anyone with a heart condition, or a respiratory condition such as asthma. Drivers: Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and take breaks inside cool, air-conditioned rooms. Also, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and use sunscreen in case you get stuck outside for a long period of time. Check the official NWS alerts here, and look for weather updates on the FreightWaves website.