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Expand chart
Reproduced from NOAA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Alaska's recent heat wave has been grabbing headlines, and rightly so: The state has been hotter than parts of the contiguous U.S. during June and July.

Driving the news: Anchorage hit 90°F for the first time ever, and the heat plus summer thunderstorms have triggered massive wildfires across the state. An area greater than Rhode Island has burned in just the past 11 days.

But this isn't the whole story.

The big picture: The ongoing heat wave is part of a longer-term accelerated warming trend that is altering life for Alaskans, many of whom live in rural communities dependent on ice and snow cover for transportation and hunting.

By the numbers: The most recent heat has been staggering, but so too is the long-term picture. Alaska has now had its:

What they're saying: The duration of the heat, plus the shockingly rapid and early disappearance of sea ice from the Bering and Chukchi Seas is most notable, Rick Thoman, a climate expert at the University of Alaska, tells Axios.

Meteorologist Brian Brettschneider said the record heat would most likely not have happened without the overall, climate change-driven warming of the state.

"Weather happens on top of climate. An airmass similar to what we just experienced has occurred several times in the past. What's different now is that the very warm airmass was placed over an environment that has already warmed by several degrees," he told Axios.

Go deeper: Heat wave brings record-breaking temperature highs to Anchorage

Go deeper

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Biden says $1,400 stimulus payments can start going out this month

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Biden said Saturday that the Senate passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package means the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans can begin going out later this month.

Driving the news: The Senate voted 50-49 Saturday to approve the sweeping legislation. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill next week before it heads to Biden's desk for his signature.