It’s official: Phoenix just endured its hottest summer in history.
The city’s average temperature in the summer of 2023 was 97 degrees. According to NOAA, this was over 3 degrees higher than the 30-year average from 1991 to 2020.
During the summer of 2023, at least 295 people died from heat-related causes in Maricopa County. An additional 298 suspected heat-related deaths are currently being investigated by the medical examiner.
Notably, Phoenix Sky Harbor experienced a record-breaking heat wave from June 30 to July 30, with 31 consecutive days of temperatures reaching 110 degrees or higher. This was the longest heat wave ever recorded in the city.
Additionally, Phoenix saw other extreme temperature records. These included 19 days with overnight lows at or above 90, an all-time record high low temperature of 97, and 17 days with highs at or above 115 degrees in July.
In fact, Phoenix became the first major city in the country to have an average July temperature surpassing 100 degrees, with an average of 102.7 degrees.
Responding to the unprecedented heat, Governor Katie Hobbs declared an extreme heat emergency on August 11 and opened two large cooling centers. However, the governor faced criticism for not taking action earlier.
The extreme heat expanded beyond Phoenix to encompass most of the southern United States. A persistent area of high pressure, known as a heat dome, contributed significantly to the unusually hot conditions.
Environmental scientists have linked Phoenix’s intense heat to man-made climate change. They argue that Phoenix and other major cities aren’t adequately prepared to protect their most vulnerable residents from hot weather.
Adding to the challenges, Phoenix also had its driest summer on record, with only 0.15 inches of rainfall observed at Sky Harbor between June 15 and September 30. On average, the monsoon season usually sees 2.43 inches of rainfall. The previous record for the driest summer was in 1924, with 0.36 inches of rainfall.
According to Axios, Governor Hobbs has ordered state agencies to develop a detailed heat plan by March 2024. She’s also instructed state agencies to seek additional federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Image Source: SelfGamer, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/. Image cropped.