An extreme heat wave is expected to intensify in the United States this weekend, with warnings issued across the Southwest.
The Heat warnings late Friday affected at least 113 million Americans, from Florida to Texas to California, even northwestern Washington state.
Air conditioning use in Texas has surpassed the previous state record for energy consumption as people try to keep cool.
About 27 million people are expected to experience temperatures over 110 F (43 C) in the coming days.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said the heat was caused by a high level of high pressure, which usually leads to higher temperatures.
The agency added that it was “one of the most powerful” regimes of its kind the region had ever seen.
“The subtropical ridges responsible for this potential historic heat wave across the region show no signs of abating anytime soon,” NWS said.
It is estimated that about 700 people die each year from heat-related causes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Saturday will also be exceptionally hot, with daytime highs expected to reach 115 F (46 C) in some areas. The intense heat is expected to continue into next week.
Phoenix is on track to smash the longest hot spell record with forecasts for the next five days expected to reach or exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).
The all-time record is 18 days and the city has already seen 15 days of temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Las Vegas could match an all-time high of 117°F (47°C) in the next few days, while Death Valley, California – one of the hottest places on Earth – could surpass the official all-time high temperature. of 130 F (54 C).
The NWS in Las Vegas has warned locals, who may think they can handle the heat, that this is “not your typical desert heat.”
They tweeted: “It’s the desert, of course it’s hot” – such a dangerous mentality! This heat wave is not a typical desert heat because of its long duration, extreme temperatures during the day, and warm nights. Everyone needs to take this heat seriously including those who live in the desert.”
Parts of the southwestern United States have already experienced blistering temperatures over the past week. In El Paso, Texas, temperatures have been in triple digits Fahrenheit for 27 straight days.
Parks, museums, zoos and businesses have announced closures or shortened hours due to the extreme temperatures.
Bison Café in Quetac, Texas has announced shorter hours, saying the scorching temperatures make the kitchen “very uncomfortable” for the chefs.
Hospitals were also seeing heat-related admissions.
“We’re getting a lot of heat-related illnesses now, a lot of dehydration, and heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Ashkan Morim, who works in the emergency room at Dignity Health Siena, just outside Las Vegas.
Overnight temperatures are expected to remain “abnormally warm” in some areas, providing little respite during the night from the heat.
Energy demand in Texas has broken records for two days in a row due to the heat.
The Texas Electrical Reliability Board (ECROT), which manages 90% of the power load in Texas, said its use reached 81,406 megawatts on Thursday, surpassing Wednesday’s record of 81,351 megawatts.
ERCOT said it expects energy use on Friday to exceed those numbers, though the agency said it had enough resources to meet demand.
The US heat wave mirrors similarly harsh conditions in Europe, forcing Greece to close one of its main attractions, the Acropolis, on Friday.
Last week, the global average temperature was 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17.23 degrees Celsius), the highest ever recorded.
Scientists say the temperatures are being driven by climate change and a natural weather pattern known as El Niño, which occurs every three to seven years and causes temperatures to rise.
The world has already warmed by about 1.1°C since the start of the industrial age and temperatures will continue to rise unless governments around the world make sharp cuts in emissions.