Spring may have only officially begun a little over month ago, but parts of the West and Southwest are already bracing for record-breaking heat. On Tuesday Los Angeles may see temperatures as high as 90°, about 16° higher than what is normal in the city for late April. And the week is only forecast to get hotter, with temperatures possibly soaring into the mid 90s later in the week and topping 100° in some parts of southern California. Any temperature over 90° would break a nearly 100 year old record for Los Angeles. Gusty winds, combined with the heat and dry conditions are also expected to heightened the risk of wildfires in the area.
The City of Angels, however, won’t be the only place wondering how July managed to make an appearance before May or June. On Monday, Corpus Christi International reached a sweltering, and record-breaking, 100°. The record for April 28 was 97°, and was set over half a century ago. While Corpus Christi got the worst of the heat, nearly all of Texas started off the week with temperatures well into the 90s.
These temperatures put in perspective recent claims that this spring is shaping up to be the coldest in recent history. Even though the eastern half of the U.S. saw colder-than-average temperatures through much of the winter, the west and Alaska were abnormally warm. Globally, March 2014 was the fourth-hottest one on record. January was the 3rd or 4th-hottest on record for the entire globe.
This latest heat wave in the Lone Star state comes a week after a report released by the University of Texas School of Law Human Rights Clinic called the conditions in Texas’ 109 prisons inhumane, thanks to the heat. Since 2007, at least 14 inmates in Texas have died as a result of living in prison facilities without air conditioning. There are at least six lawsuits currently pending over eight heat-related prison deaths in the state. The temperature in some prison cells in the summer has repeatedly topped 115°, and in one case reached 149°, far above the 85° maximum temperature allowable in prisons in other states. According to the report, these conditions violate international human rights accords.
Heat-related illness is one of the most serious public health impacts of climate change . Extreme heat alone kills more people each year than other natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes combined. Heat waves are expected to increase in severity and frequency in the future.