A large swath of the country stretching from Texas to the Dakotas is expected to face another round of scorching temperatures through Monday, possibly even hotter than last week’s heat wave.
The Central Plains are expected to see highs in the 90s and low 100s, with a heat index that could reach 100-110 degrees during the hottest parts of the day, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters say the heat wave will gradually move east over the weekend, shifting away from the northern plains.
“This heat is on the earlier side, you’re looking at potential record-breaking heat across the northern plains, upper midwest this weekend,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tyler Roys told USA TODAY.
Temperatures are “about 15-25 degrees above average” in the middle of the country according to AccuWeather.
On Saturday, southern Minnesota was under an excessive heat watch and other parts of the north-central U.S. were under a heat advisory.
The southeast was also under a heat advisory, with the National Weather Service warning of “hazy, hot, and humid” weather.
While the middle of the country swelters in the heat, the West Coast, Great Lakes, and northeast will experience considerably cooler-than-normal temperatures this weekend, forecasters say.
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Why is the extreme heat happening before start of summer?
High atmospheric pressure from a ‘heat dome’ has been causing rising temperatures to stick around, while preventing storms from bringing cooling rain.
Roys said weather patterns slow down when there’s high pressure, so the heat dome is “kind of like a roadblock,” forcing storms to go around it.
Prolonged, severe drought in much of the southwest has been feeding the heat dome even more than normal because drought-stricken ground bakes even faster under the hot sun.
“The ground is already dry, so there’s no moisture in there at all, so that air is able to rise faster,” Roys said.
Meanwhile, storms in the West are going to help push the heat eastward early next week. As the heat dome inches east, the lower Midwest will also see scorching high temperatures.
Around Tuesday, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri could possibly see temperatures in the 100s, Roys said.
As next week goes on, highs in the 90s are likely in Washington and Pittsburgh.
The good news, Roys said, is that the heat in the lower Midwest and near the Ohio River Valley and mid-Atlantic won’t last as long as last week’s heat wave when some cities in the region experienced high temperatures for three or four days straight.
“The big difference is, compared to last week, much of this heat — it’s not going to be several days in a row,” Roys said.
High temperatures bring heat-related weather deaths
Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined. Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.
Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, and combine with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent, and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record, according to The Associated Press.
Just in the county that includes Phoenix, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-associated causes in 2021.
“If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event,” said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
It’s a problem that stretches across the United States, and now, with rising global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger just in places like Phoenix.
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This summer will likely bring above-normal temperatures over most land areas worldwide, according to a seasonal map that volunteer climatologists created for the International Research Institute at Columbia University.
Last summer, a heat wave blasted the normally temperate U.S. Northwest and had Seattle residents sleeping in their yards and on roofs, or fleeing to hotels with air conditioning. Across the state, several people presumed to be homeless died outdoors, including a man slumped behind a gas station.
In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams fanned out with water and popsicles to homeless encampments on Portland’s outskirts.
A quick scientific analysis concluded last year’s Pacific Northwest heat wave was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change adding several degrees and toppling previous records.
Contributing: The Associated Press