Mercury soars to 128 at Death Valley amid scorching heat wave

·6 min read

As an intense and record-breaking heat wave continues to roast the American West, the highest temperature occurred on Wednesday at the lowest point in North America: Death Valley.

Death Valley is certainly living up to its name as AccuWeather forecasters are cautioning that "most outdoor activity is potentially life-threatening" in such extreme heat, which will continue through the weekend. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell is in Death Valley and reporting from there on the network. By 9 a.m. on Wednesday the temperature had hit 106 there and kept going. After 1 p.m., the mercury had risen to 121.

By 5 p.m., local time, the NWS marked Death Valley and Stovepipe Wells, California, as the hottest locations in the Lower 48 on Wednesday, both at 125 degrees F. On the other end of the state, in northern California, one of the coldest temperatures of the day in the Lower 48 was recorded near Old Station. Both that location and a station near Sand Creek Station and Foster Flat in Oregon recorded low temperatures 25 degrees F -- a 100 degree difference.

By Wednesday evening, high temperatures in Death Valley, California, pushed to 125 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with an AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature of 130. Death Valley is the record-holder for the highest air temperature ever recorded on Earth, a sizzling 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913. The high temperature of 125 degrees came just within 9 degrees of that world record.

But, temperatures during this blistering heat wave would not stop at levels achieved on Wednesday.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency in California due to the extreme heat, Newsweek reported.

Record-high temperatures were recorded in Death Valley, California; Needles, California; Barstow, California; Las Vegas; Kingman, Arizona; and Bishop, California, on Thursday. Each location topped its previous record high temperature for June 17 and Palm Springs, California broke its record for any day in June.

Death Valley recorded its highest temperature of the heat wave so far on Thursday, reaching a scorching reaching 128 degrees, or just within 6 degrees of the world record.

But Death Valley is hardly the only location experiencing searing heat, and many others have stamped new marks in the weather history books, and some more records could still fall, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Forecasters say this current heat wave won't just be remembered for its intensity, but also for its duration.

Dozens of record highs have already fallen from California and Arizona to Utah to Montana and Idaho, and more are likely to tumble heading into the weekend as temperatures remain well above 100 F and even 110.

The expansive nature of excessive heat watches and warnings over parts of the country familiar with extreme heat is a testament to the severity of this particular heat wave. Many of these alerts last into the weekend.

The interior West will remain sweltering through the weekend, according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

"Temperature departures in the Southwest can average 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Some areas will even have temperatures up to 25 degrees above normal," Pastelok said.

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Temperatures began to soar this past weekend in response to a northward bulge in the jet stream.

The lowest point in North America is forecast continue to see temperatures push past 120 degrees.

Through Saturday, the temperature at Death Valley could come within 10 degrees of the all-time high ever recorded on Earth -- a scorching 134 degrees set in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. The AccuWeather forecast calls for record-breaking high temperatures in the middle 120s each of these days. The average high for the middle of June in Death Valley is around 110.

Salt Lake City has recorded three consecutive days of record-breaking temperatures that started with a high of 102 on Sunday and 103 on Monday.

"To put the 103°F at SLC in historical context, this is the earliest 103°F on record dating back to 1874. The previous earliest was 06/17/1940," the NWS said on Twitter.

The temperature climbed even higher on Tuesday when it hit 107 F in Salt Lake City, a sweltering mark that ties the city's all-time record high temperature, which was reached on only two other occasions: July 26, 1960, and July 13, 2002.

Phoenix is expected to reach or exceed 115 degrees each day through Saturday, which would break its record for consecutive 115-degree days of four. This record was achieved in 1968, 1979, 1990, 1995 and twice in 2020, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Phoenix managed to reach 115 degrees, both days tying with previous daily record high temperatures set back in 1974. The NWS noted that on Tuesday evening around Deer Valley Airport -- a different location from where they recorded the 115 degree record -- a heat burst occurred shortly after 9 p.m., boosting temperatures up from 108 degrees to 111 degrees in just 9 minutes.

Las Vegas is another traditionally hot city that will experience the heat to another level through the middle of June. Through Sunday, Sin City is forecast to peak at 113 or 114 degrees and challenge record-high temperatures that date back to 1940.

"It is unusual for Las Vegas to reach above 115 degrees, even in the hottest part of summer. The official reporting station for the city has documented temperatures above 115 degrees in only 21 of the last 73 years," AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert noted.

On Wednesday, the city's official observing site at McCarran International Airport reached 116 degrees F just before 4:30 p.m., local time, breaking the old record of 114 degrees for the date. It also sits just one degree below the all time high record of 117 degrees, which has occurred four times since records began in 1937, according to the National Weather Service.

In Central and Northern California, Wednesday was the first day of triple-digit heat for this event, then the peak of the heat will be from Thursday through Saturday, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr.

Fresno and Sacramento, California, are among the locales that will endure record-breaking heat during this stretch.

The NWS office in Hanford, California, said on Twitter that "heat like this happens rarely" and to anticipate "little cooling overnight."

Experts urge visitors and even long-standing residents who may be more accustomed to such extreme conditions to limit outdoor activity to the coolest times of the day, drink plenty of fluids and spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned buildings. Make sure you also know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses.

Rainfall opportunities will be limited in the hot pattern, though there may be an uptick in storms in the Four Corners region as the week progresses and into the weekend.

"There is the chance, especially late in the week, for pop-up afternoon thunderstorms across the higher elevations of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona," Pastelok said.

Storms of this nature tend to bring very little beneficial rainfall, but can be a source for lightning-induced wildfires.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier, Spectrum, FuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios.

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