Record-Breaking Heatwaves and Droughts: The Scorching Reality in the American Southwest

2022-06-14 07:00:00

Washington. At least one resident of Phoenix, the sprawling metropolis in the middle of the Arizona desert, was having fun. As temperatures in his hometown soared to 46 degrees Celsius, Joe Brown placed two raw hamburger patties on a tray and placed it under the windshield of his Honda. Inside the car, the thermometer read 95 degrees – apparently the ideal condition for a very special slow food menu. After a while, the minced meatballs sizzled appetizingly and showed the typical brownish color.

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The daring culinary experiment gave the 20-year-old a viral hit on the Tiktok video portal. But many other residents of the American Southwest were less than enthusiastic about last weekend’s record-breaking heat. In many places, the plagued people were desperately looking for shade and cooling off. And those who had to work outside were stretched to their physical limits.

Highest drought warning level in several US states

At first he vomited and had no strength, Mexican-born Cristian Sanchez told a local reporter. Near the Las Vegas airport, the gardener and seven colleagues were busy ripping dead grass out of the ground to make room for drought-resistant plants. “After a while, the body gets used to it,” the worker said quickly.

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Unusually early in the year, the authorities had to issue a heat alert over the weekend because of the abnormal and unhealthily long and humid weather. In the meantime, the heat of the day is moving further east and temperatures in Los Angeles have fallen from 38 to 28 degrees, but the phenomenon of increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions remains. From central Oregon to southern California and Nevada to much of New Mexico and Texas, large parts of the western and southern United States are currently colored deep red on the drought monitor from the University of Nebraska and the National Weather Service NOAA. Deep red is the highest of five warning levels. It means: extraordinary dryness.

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“Climate change has turned summer into our danger season”

According to data from the weather agency, May was almost one degree Celsius warmer on average in the USA than the average for the past century. But the mean says little. While Washington state in the far northwest of the country experienced one of its coldest early summers, Texas suffered from the second hottest May on record. The precipitation was distributed similarly unequally. For example, while it has rained heavily in North Dakota in recent months, California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah have been experiencing record droughts since the beginning of the year. At the same time, gigantic forest fires are raging in the southwest, especially in New Mexico.

Firefighters battle a forest fire in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Gone are the days when summer on America’s west coast promised pure relaxation, surfing fun and freedom. “Climate change has turned summer into our danger season,” said San Francisco-based climate researcher Kristy Dahl of the critical Union of Concerned Scientists a few days ago.

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Farmers suffer the most from water scarcity

In fact, California is experiencing its worst drought in decades. The water levels in the reservoirs are extremely low and there is no sign of rain. The state and local authorities are trying increasingly rigorously to avert the impending state of emergency. As early as March, Governor Gavin Newsom banned the irrigation of all commercial and industrial properties. In southern California, private lawns are now only allowed to be sprinkled for a few minutes once or twice a week in the morning or evening. In the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles, the authorities are now reducing the water pressure in the pipes of polluters: the wet then only trickles out of the shower and the water sprinkler cannot be operated.

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A withered vineyard in Fresno in the Central Valley.

The main victims of the water shortage are the farmers. In the Central Valley, the country’s main fruit and vegetable growing region, water allocations have been severely reduced. Parts of the country are now fallow and thousands of harvest workers are unemployed. Things are no better in Arizona, whose water allocation from the Colorado River had to be cut by 30 percent this year.

“There is less and less work in the fields,” complains Hernan Hernandez, executive director of the California Farmworkers Foundation. Many colleagues, who come mainly from Latin America, would no longer be able to find a job in agriculture or would have to work a second shift at Amazon or Uber in order to be able to earn a living. Blame it on, Hernandez is sure, is the increasing drought in the region: “Every year it gets worse.”

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#Southwest #suffers #heat #extreme #drought

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