The American Southwest is in the vice of a massive heat wave that covers several states. The all-time U.S. record of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, set in Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913, could even fall.
This spike coincides with one of the worst droughts since the government began to keep records. It covers states as far north as Montana, as far west as California and Oregon, and as far south as Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas on the Mexican border, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Massive areas of cropland and cattle ranges could be ruined for decades. Meanwhile, the nation’s 10th largest city — Phoenix — has recently reported temperatures approaching 120 degrees. The highest temp on record in Phoenix is 122 degrees, the highest temperature of any city considered for this list.
Phoenix’s population of 5,059,909 has grown over 10% in the past decade. This makes it among the fastest-growing large cities in the country. The city’s population has more than doubled since 1990, when the figure was 2,238,480, and quadrupled since 1970, when it was 1,039,144. Many people move to Phoenix because of the warm, dry weather and the lack of the kind of cold winter in the northern tier of states. These people currently live in a city that may be barely habitable during some parts of the summer.
Weather.com forecasts temperatures of 118 degrees in Phoenix on Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to stay at that level during the daytime for the next three days. Phoenix is also in one of the epicenters of the drought, in an area the Drought Monitor designates as “exceptional drought.” That is the worst kind possible, described as “Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.” Nearby, The Telegraph Fire has burned over 104,755 acres and continues to spread rapidly. It is already one of the largest wildfires in state history.
Julie Malingowski, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told The New York Times, “There’s no relief overnight, so if people don’t have proper air-conditioning and can’t cool off, there’s not that respite.” Based on weather patterns, the lack of relief during the hottest days likely will go on for years, or longer.
To determine the hottest cities in the U.S., 24/7 Wall St. reviewed comparative climatic data from the National Centers for Environmental Information (a part of NOAA), which tracks the highest temperature on record and the mean number of days in a year where the maximum temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more as recorded by select weather observing stations within all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Pacific Islands.