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Extreme Summer Weather Sweeps Southern U.S. States


Climate change is delivering a miserable—and dangerous—early summer to residents across the southern United States, including “staggering” heat in Miami and a trio of massive wildfires currently burning in the Santa Catalina mountains in southern Arizona.

The Arizona fires “are bigger than Washington D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, and Manhattan combined,” reports [1] The Guardian, adding that one of the three wildfires is still only 58% contained. The cause, according to NASA climate scientist Amber Soja, is “extreme heat and drought.” 

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Regular daily temperatures in Arizona in June averaged about 2°C in excess of the norm, which typically ranges from 38 to 41°C. Rain has been scant, “despite June 15 marking the start of the state’s official monsoon season,” notes The Guardian. The wildfires have also arrived in the middle of a surge in coronavirus cases in Arizona, adding an additional level of risk both for the Navajo Nation and for the men and women battling the blazes.

Miami, meanwhile, has “just experienced its hottest week on record, rounding out its warmest first half of the year ever observed,” reports [3] The Washington Post. While the tropical city is no stranger to high summer temperatures, the “wicked” daytime heat experienced by Miamians as June ended was unprecedented. 

The searing temperatures are being exacerbated by a mid-atmospheric layer of desert air that has drifted in from western Africa, notes the Post. The aridity of this air mass is serving to “suppress Florida’s characteristic thunderstorm activity, a staple in cooling the afternoons.”

Adding to the misery: on the ground level, Miami is enduring “exceptional humidity” thanks to excessive warming in the Gulf of Mexico. The trend “has made it tougher for the atmosphere to rid itself of heat at night,” causing sleeplessness or worse for residents of the state. 

In its own report on the dangers of the “life-threatening” day and night warmth arising from the overheating Gulf, CNN warns [4] of heat advisories “in effect for over 22 million Americans from Missouri to Texas, including in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.” Residents of Dallas, unaccustomed to this level of heat, might well be forgiven for thinking they had woken up in Death Valley.