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Los Angeles Fire Department mops up a brush fire in Elysian Park on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Photo: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A record-breaking heatwave in the western part of the United States has caused fires in Montana, Arizona and California.

Why it matters: The West is already experiencing an intense drought, which studies show is being exacerbated by climate change. In the coming days, more than 40 million people in the West and Southwest could see temperatures exceed 100°F.

In photos
A firefighter responds to a brush fire in Los Angeles on June 16. Photo: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Dry cracked earth is visible at Nicasio Reservoir on June 16 in Marin County, Calif., which is under mandatory water-use restrictions. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Cattle graze on June 14 near Lake Isabella, Calif., which will receive only a quarter of its average annual Sierra snowmelt.
Water intake towers at Lake Mead, Ariz., North America's largest artificial reservoir. Water levels have dropped to their lowest since being filled in 1937. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Children cool off in water sprinklers at a park in Las Vegas on June 16. Photo: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A thermometer sign displays a temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit on June 15 in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara/Getty Images
A person drinks cold water at a homeless resource center, in Las Vegas on June 16. Photo: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Go deeper

Updated Jun 16, 2021 - World

Recap: Biden, Putin conclude summit

President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva for less than four hours of talks on Wednesday, a highly anticipated summit that comes as both sides say U.S.-Russia relations have sunk to a new post-Cold War low.

The latest: At a press conference following the conclusion of the summit, Putin called the talks "very constructive' and announced that the U.S. and Russia's respective ambassadors would return to their posts. Biden called the talks "positive" and stressed in his press conference that his agenda is "for America," not "against Russia."

Southwest heat wave intensifies, breaks records and worsens drought

A temperature "misery index" shows peak levels across the Southwest (orange and yellow), and the upper air flow shows how the jet stream is being pushed north, away from the heat dome parked over the Four Corners region. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.

Historic heat wave expands across California, wildfire risk builds

Forecast high temperatures on Thursday from the National Weather Service. (Weatherbell)d

The record-breaking heat wave roasting the West is expanding its grip on Thursday, with the focus of the triple-digit heat shifting into California — particularly the Central Valley and desert regions.

Why it matters: Across the West, the combination of record heat, preexisting drought conditions, and dry lightning strikes from afternoon thunderstorms threatens to ignite numerous wildfires Thursday.