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Millions of Americans Are Experiencing Extreme Temperatures Under “Heat Dome”

Eleven Trump supporters required hospitalization from heat exhaustion after attending a recent town hall in Phoenix.

A woman takes a photo of thermometer that shows 123 Fahrenheit (50 C) at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley today as extreme heat wave warming issued in California on June 6, 2024.

An extreme heat wave is driving temperatures to record-setting levels across a number of states in the western U.S., exacerbated by a phenomenon known as a “heat dome” that is likely intensifying due to the climate crisis.

Heat alerts are affecting around 25 million people in California, Arizona and Nevada. The extreme heat is also stretching beyond those states to as far east as Texas.

Temperatures in Death Valley reached a record high on Thursday, hitting 122 degrees Fahrenheit. In nearby Las Vegas, temperatures hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit. And in Phoenix, temperatures hit the 113-degree mark, another record high.

The forecast for the weekend shows more record-breaking heat to come.

Western states are seeing high temperatures hit and stay for long periods of time due to a weather pattern called a heat dome, which happens when a heat wave is trapped in a certain geographical area due to high atmospheric pressure keeping it in place. Heat domes are somewhat unpredictable, and can last a few days or even a few weeks. They tend to make heat waves even hotter than usual, with the current heat dome bringing temperatures 20 to 30 degrees higher than what these states typically see in June.

It’s unclear if the current heat dome was brought on by the climate crisis, as the phenomenon is not all that unusual. However, scientists believe that heat domes are becoming more prevalent due to global warming.

“You can get a heat dome or a configuration of the weather pattern that is similar to past cases. But it’s going to be easier to achieve more extreme temperatures as a consequence of global warming,” Alex Lamers with the National Weather Service told NPR about the current situation.

Recent heat domes seen in the U.S. seem to have been more intense because of the climate crisis. A heat dome that overtook parts of the U.S. and Mexico last year, for instance, was made at least five times more likely due to man-made climate change.

As the western U.S. grappled with the effects of the current heat dome, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a speech on Wednesday addressing the global crisis.

“For the past year, every turn of the calendar has turned up the heat. Our planet is trying to tell us something,” Guterres said. “But we don’t seem to be listening.”

Politicians in the U.S. have long disregarded scientists’ warnings about the climate crisis, even as Americans are increasingly experiencing the effects of global warming.

On Thursday, former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for this year’s presidential race, held an outdoor campaign event in Phoenix. Videos taken prior to the event showed many people fainting; by the end of the town hall, at least 11 Trump supporters in attendance required hospital care due to heat exhaustion.

Trump is a noted denier of the climate crisis, stating at several times during his political career that he either doesn’t believe it’s happening or that it’s not as dangerous as scientists say it is. In an interview earlier this week, he downplayed the climate crisis yet again, claiming that rising beach levels would mean “more beachfront property.”

Truthout attempted to reach out to the Trump campaign to discuss the individuals harmed by extreme heat at his campaign event on Thursday, but received no response.

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