Updated Jul 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Death Valley hits 130°F as 30 million under heat alerts across the West

People cool off in the Whitewater River in Whitewater, California.
People cool off in the Whitewater River in Whitewater, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

More than 30 million Americans were under excessive heat warnings or advisories across the West on Saturday, as forecasters warned of more record high temperatures.

Of note: McCarran International Airport tied Las Vegas' all-time record highest temperature of 117°F on Saturday evening, per a National Weather Service statement. Flights were canceled at the airport Friday as the temperature hit 116°F.

  • California's Death Valley hit 129.4°F Saturday and 130°F on Friday, with the NWS warning it could reach 130°F again Sunday — marking some of the hottest temperatures ever reliably recorded on Earth.
  • The World Meteorological Organization, which officially declares temperature records, is in the process of examining whether last year's temperature of 130°F in Death Valley was Earth's hottest recorded temperature since at least 1931, the Washington Post notes.

What else is happening: California's power regulator and Nevada public utility NV Energy asked people to conserve power, as the states were hit by triple-digit temperatures.

  • The extreme heat is spurring wildfires across several U.S. states and Canada, triggering evacuations in California, Oregon and Idaho, and British Columbia.
  • Two Arizona firefighters died when their aircraft crashed while responding to a wildfire in Mohave County.

By the numbers: Other notable temperatures in California on Saturday included Pine Flat hitting 113°F and Fresno reaching 110 °F.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The ongoing heat wave is the latest in a series of extreme heat events to hit the West so far this spring and summer. In a vicious feedback, the intense drought is helping to vault temperatures higher, while the heat is worsening the drought at the same time.

  • Human-caused climate change is dramatically boosting the odds and severity of heat waves such as this one. A study out this week on the Pacific Northwest heat event concluded it would have been "virtually impossible" without global warming.

For the record: North America experienced its hottest June on record last month, as a deadly heat wave struck the Pacific Northwest.

Go deeper: Extreme heat has killed an estimated 1 billion small sea creatures

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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