climate change

8 Eye-popping Numbers From the Worldwide Heat Wave

A billboard displays a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix, Arizona on July 18. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The extreme temperatures experienced on Earth this month have shattered so many records that it is getting hard to keep track. The first full week in July was the hottest global average temperature ever recorded and experts expect that July will be the hottest month in 120,000 years. And with CO2 emissions trapping more heat in the atmosphere with each passing year, these intense summers are not going anywhere. To help map what scientists are calling the “uncharted territory” of our new climate reality, below are some glimpses into the staggering temperatures that millions across the world are facing right now.

The heat index was above 150 degrees in parts of the Middle East

The heat index is the measure of how hot the air actually feels when temperature and humidity are factored in. And in the Middle East earlier this month, it was beyond repressive:

At a heat index north of 150, the human body struggles to cool off by sweating, leading to potentially lethal overheating. “We know these extreme temperatures are killing people right now,” climate researcher Cascade Tuholske told the Washington Post.

The regional temperatures alone have been quite alarming. In Iraq, the temperature has been above 110 degrees Fahrenheit every day since June 24, and there’s no reprieve in sight. The capital of Tunisia recently experienced temperatures above 120 degrees. Muslims on the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia endured temperatures as high as 110 degrees.

Death Valley is pushing 130 degrees

The national park in the Californian stretch of the Mojave desert frequently clocks some of the hottest temperatures on the planet. On Sunday, an official recording by the National Weather Service found that Death Valley was 128 degrees. As is common in the park, there were several groups of tourists there to experience the brutal temperatures. A 52-year-old even pulled off a dangerous stunt, running a mile in a Darth Vader getup. Another hiker was not so lucky: “Everything is hot here,” a 71-year-old visitor told the Los Angeles Times last week just hours before his death.

In Las Vegas, 150 miles to the east, residents are experiencing regular 110-degree days. Passengers passed out in their seats on a Delta plane on the tarmac at the Harry Reid International Airport last week, and the flight had to be canceled. And in Valley of Fire State Park roughly an hour east of Las Vegas, two hikers were found dead on July 23 in the triple digit heat.

There have been 20 straight days of heat above 110 degrees in Phoenix

On Tuesday, Phoenix broke a record set in 1974 with 19 straight days of temperatures above 110 degrees. With a 117-degree temperature on Wednesday and north-of-110 temperatures for the next week, it’s quite possible that Phoenix will break the record again in the coming days. The weather is taking a toll on the most vulnerable in Maricopa County, with 12 heat-related deaths in the first week of July and 55 more deaths suspected to be caused by heat by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. And the city just isn’t cooling off, with 10 straight days of lows above 90 degrees. Thanks to a heat dome parked over much of the South and Southwest, millions of Americans have faced even hotter summers than usual. In the coming days, that heat dome is expected to shift, leading to intense temperatures in the northern plains and midwest.

The heat in the U.S. is moving east in late July

While the triple-digit weather lingers in Arizona, the heat dome is now expected to move to the east, with temperatures above 100 degrees from Billings, Montana, to Dodge City, Kansas. In New York City — where residents have been reading about extreme global heat while experiencing a relatively mild summer — temperatures later this week will be well into the 90s. Over 250 million Americans will experience a heat index above 90 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

The Gulf of Mexico is oppressively hot

Ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are often compared to bathwater in the summer. This year, the common comparison is a hot tub. In shallower parts of the Florida Keys, the water temperature was 95 degrees, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recording last week. One buoy off the Florida coast measured 97 degrees. In general, the temperatures are about five degrees higher than average, and temperatures do not peak until August or September. Aside from the bummer for beachgoers, scientists are concerned about the health of Gulf coral reefs and the threat of hurricanes moving over the hot water: Hurricanes travel slower over warmer surface temperatures, creating more time for them to grow stronger before hitting the coast.

It’s been staggeringly hot in China

After facing an unprecedented early heat wave in April, China dealt with dangerous levels of heat in June, including a temperature of 104 degrees in Beijing for two days in a row, a recording that has never happened before. And while the record heat has subsided in many Chinese cities, the small town of Sanbao in northwest China broke a national record on Sunday with a temperature of 126 degrees.

Italy is baking …

A high-pressure system bringing warm air from North Africa to southern Europe has resulted in remarkably high temperatures in Italy, where 23 cities could hit temperatures of 114 or higher on Wednesday. Factory workers are threatening to strike in the south, where Sardinia and Sicily are facing the worst of the heat during tourist season. The region that surrounds Rome (101 degrees on Wednesday) reports 20 percent more medical emergencies than last year, when a heat wave killed an estimated 61,000 people on the continent. In the town of Jerzu on Sardinia on July 24, it was 118 degrees — one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.

… And Greece is burning

While the massive wildfires in Canada have attracted most of the global attention this fire season, Greece has been experiencing devastating fires in far more populated areas over the past month. Fires are burning just 30 miles outside of Athens, moving quickly through dry pine forests. Thousands have evacuated their homes in the region and thousands more tourists were forced to leave their hotels in Rhodes — the largest evacuation season in Greek history.

In Athens, tourists were disappointed to find that the Acropolis was closed during the afternoon this weekend, with 104-degree temperatures making the hilltop monument unsafe for visitors. The European Space Agency warns that the heat wave in Europe will last at least until the end of July.

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8 Eye-popping Numbers From the Worldwide Heat Wave