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California heat wave: How hot is going to get and where?

More than 20 million people in the southwest of the country are on heat alert, in many cases exceeding 100 degrees.

More than 20 million people in the southwest of the country are on heat alert, in many cases exceeding 100 degrees.
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California has started the month of June with temperatures approaching historic highs. The excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) paint a concerning picture of the scorching conditions that lie ahead.

The Central Valley region will bear the brunt of the heat wave, with Sacramento forecasted to reach a sweltering 102°F on Tuesday, well above the average high of 86°F. Fresno and Bakersfield are expected to hit a blistering 104°F, surpassing their average highs by around 15°F.

Parts of the Central Valley could see record-breaking daily high temperatures in the upper 90s to 100°F on Wednesday and Thursday, prompting excessive heat warnings from the NWS.

Desert Southwest Scorches

The Desert Southwest will also experience extreme heat, with Las Vegas forecasted to reach a scorching 109°F on Wednesday and 107°F on Thursday, around 10°F hotter than the average high of 98°F for this time of year. Phoenix is predicted to soar to 111°F on Wednesday, 112°F on Thursday, and a blistering 113°F on Friday, well above the average of 103°F.

Death Valley, known for its extreme temperatures, could see the mercury rise as high as 121°F on Thursday.

Cause and consequences

The extreme heat is being caused by a strong high-pressure system or “heat dome” trapping hot air over the region.

“If you’ve made grilled cheese in a pan and you put a lid on there, it melts the cheese faster, because the lid helps trap the heat and makes it a little bit warmer,” Alex Lamers, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told NPR. “It’s a similar concept here: You get a big high-pressure system in the upper parts of the atmosphere, and it allows that heat to build underneath over multiple days.”

Overnight lows are also expected to remain very warm, providing little relief from the dangerous daytime heat.

The heat wave is forecast to expand into Oregon and Washington by Friday before easing across the Southwest on Sunday. Authorities are urging residents to take precautions, stay hydrated, and limit outdoor activities during the peak heat hours to avoid heat-related illnesses.