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Brutal heat wave makes Texas among the hottest places on Earth

A stagnant dome of high pressure has fueled dangerous heat and humidity across most of the state, with several cities hitting or surpassing 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
A man pauses to wipes his face while digging fence post holes in Houston June 27, 2023.
A man pauses to wipe his face while digging fence post holes in Houston on Tuesday.David J. Phillip / AP

Blistering triple-digit temperatures across Texas this week have the state rivaling the hottest locations on the planet, including the Sahara Desert and parts of the Persian Gulf.

Texas has for weeks been baking under a severe, early season heat wave that is now spreading into the Lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the Southeast.

Over the past week, several cities in Texas, including San Angelo and Del Rio, have hit or surpassed 110 degrees Fahrenheit — temperatures that are more common at this time of year in parts of northern Africa and the Middle East.

Rio Grande Village, Texas, in Big Bend National Park, was hotter than Death Valley on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Rio Grande Village was 115 degrees that day, the hottest in the nation, while Furnace Creek in Death Valley recorded 109 degrees, it said.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s power grid operator, said power use hit a preliminary all-time high Tuesday as demand for air conditioning spiked, Reuters reported. ERCOT said it expects another record to be set Wednesday.

A stagnant dome of high pressure has fueled dangerous heat and humidity across most of the state, with local officials warning people to take precautions and limit time outdoors.

The extreme temperatures have already taken a toll. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the rate of emergency department visits attributed to heat last week were about 30% higher compared to the same time last year.

An average of 702 heat-related deaths occur every year in the U.S., according to the CDC. The National Weather Service has said that heat causes more deaths across the country each year than any other weather event, including tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.

A time-lapse released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed how surface air temperatures have intensified over Mexico and the central and southern U.S. since May 1.

Studies have shown that climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of extreme heat events. A recent analysis by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based nonprofit research group, found that human-caused global warming made this month's heat wave in Texas and Mexico at least five times more likely to occur.

Brutally hot conditions are expected to persist Wednesday across Texas, with many places experiencing temperatures well into the triple digits.

Meanwhile, around 87 million people across the Midwest and parts of the Northeast are at risk of poor air quality due to smoke from Canadian wildfires.

The National Weather Service said in an update early Wednesday that the heat dome is expected to “expand northward into the Middle Mississippi Valley” bringing high temperatures that will not cool off much overnight. Forecasters have said that much of the South will likely experience extreme heat and humidity that will persist through the July 4 holiday.