More than 40 million people in the US are under a heat alert.
Texas cities have reached an unprecedented heat index – which combines temperature and humidity. Corpus Christi has hit 125F (51C), while Rio Grande Village notched 118F (47C) and Del Rio marked 115F (46C). States including New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri are also experiencing scorching heat, with the National Weather Service predicting the temperatures to rise further and last into the week of 4 July.
The heat follows a weekend of destructive storms that left hundreds of thousands of people without power. The heat dome, as it is known, has settled above Mexico and parts of the US south-west and is caused by hot ocean air that has become trapped in the atmosphere.
“These conditions are very stressful to the people living in the region. We are seeing a really intense, wide-spread, and long-lasting event,” said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at non-profit Climate Central. “Human-caused climate change made these conditions more than five times more likely.”
Earlier this week, Texas’s power utility urged users to cut back on air conditioning to alleviate the stress on the grid. Emergency crews in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, region have responded to a record number of calls owing to the heat and lack of power, according to the New York Times. In Jackson, Mississippi, residents reported not having power and air conditioning for nearly 100 hours, NBC reports.
An average of 702 heat related deaths happen in the US each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, 69 people in Oregon died from heat caused by a heat dome. On Thursday, an Oregon county filed a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies, arguing that the oil and gas companies are accountable for the heatwave.
A record-breaking heat wave is entering its third week in Texas, as temperatures reach triple digits in the broader US south and tens of thousands of people in affected states are without power and lack air conditioning.
Unrelenting heat presents particular health and safety risks to older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions and outdoor workers. People of color and low-income residents bear a higher burden from heat, whether because of their occupation or living in close proximity to heat exacerbating industries and heat-trapping highways. At home, vulnerable communities might lack adequate air conditioning.