It was the summer that wouldn’t quit. From early June to straight past Labor Day, waves upon waves of heat scorched and baked the country, smashing thousands of temperature records along the way.
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High temperatures in the Western U.S. are hitting the produce industry, damaging crops, shrinking shipments and leaving fewer leafy greens and fruits on supermarket shelves.
A California grower said some of his lettuce leaves are turning brown and melting in the fields because of crop diseases intensified by the high temperatures. In Pennsylvania, a retailer said its stores went a week without having strawberries to sell. A New York distributor has substituted honeydew melons for watermelons, which have become scarce.
As much of the West continued to swelter in a record-breaking heat wave, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a package of legislation aimed at protecting Californians from extreme heat, including establishing a statewide warning system by 2025 and conducting a study on the effects of sizzling temperatures on workers.
As the American West grapples with another dangerous heat wave in the midst of a megadrought, official advisories rightly focus on short-term measures to keep people cool and hydrated.
Yet as record-breaking heat waves become more common in a warming world, they pose a longer term threat to human well-being. Excessive heat interferes with pollinator interactions with plants that produce about a third of the world’s food crops. Scientists are scrambling to understand the complex ways spiking temperatures are disrupting those relationships.
The heat wave that’s been gripping California and other parts of the West for 10 days and counting is the most severe ever recorded in September, weather experts have said — confirming what California’s governor is calling the “hottest and longest on record” for the month.
Cities across California set record high temperatures on Tuesday, including Sacramento at 116 degrees. The heat wave will continue across the West on Wednesday, but ease by the weekend.
California hopes to avoid blackouts amid heatwave by asking millions of people to use less electricity
A multi-state heatwave will test California’s electric grid over Labor Day weekend as triple-digit temperatures hit millions of people simultaneously, prompting concern that the state could once again turn to rolling blackouts.
State officials hope to avoid that situation by asking residents to voluntarily use less power, even as the heat tempts Californians to crank up their air conditioners. Gov. Gavin Newsom also said the state has made infrastructure improvements since its last round of heat-fueled blackouts in 2020.
The extreme temperatures that will bear down on California over the next week are the result of a “heat dome,” a phenomenon that typically brings broiling conditions to the state as summer fades into fall. But climate change is worsening the dome’s effects and making it more lethal for people who cannot seek relief.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento are all included in excessive heat watches or warnings over the Labor Day weekend.
A prolonged and intense heat wave has begun to swelter much of the Southwest this week — and by early next week, dozens of records are likely to have been set.
What to expect: The heat wave is forecast to culminate with a dangerously hot Labor Day weekend across much of California, Nevada, Oregon and surrounding states in the West.
Threat level: In Death Valley, California, which saw flash floods earlier this summer, September heat records could be threatened or toppled, with a high at or above 125°F this weekend.