'Heat waves are killers,' and a scorching one is likely to hit California this weekend

Rachel Schnalzer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

The hot weekend comes after a "mega heat dome" struck the Pacific Northwest and western Canada earlier this month, killing hundreds, igniting fires and prompting a study that quickly tied it to climate change.

This incoming heat wave can also be attributed to a warming planet, said Patzert.

"Over the past 60 years, every decade has been hotter than the previous decade. None of this should be a surprise," he said. "We've had what I would call a tipping point or a crisis here with regard to heat waves."

Heat poses a serious risk to human health, Patzert explained, especially when it surpasses 95 degrees. "That's when the human body starts to have negative reactions," he said. With climate change, "we're spending more and more time over that [95 degree] threshold at various locations, especially in the West."

The extreme temperatures will be particularly dangerous "for those working or participating in outdoor activities," the heat alert for the Antelope Valley explains. The National Weather Service predicts overnight temperatures will remain "very warm" in the Antelope Valley, hovering in the mid-70s to mid-80s.

Residents in high heat areas should drink fluids, avoid spending time in the sun and check on family members and neighbors periodically. Adults and pets should not be left in vehicles, the National Weather Service warns.

Free, air-conditioned cooling centers are available across L.A. County. Additional tips for extreme heat can be found here.


Heat-related illness can be serious and life-threatening. Anyone suffering from signs of heat stroke should call 911. Here are additional tips for recognizing and handling heat-related illness.

With the heat and dry conditions also come an elevated fire risk, said Sweet. The National Weather Service urges residents to use caution with any potential flame sources, as fires continue to blaze across the state.

Climate change, heat waves and unhealthy forests are combining to compound the threat of blazes, Patzert said. "The great forests, the Sierra and the Rockies becoming more and more desiccated and more prone to these extreme fire situations."

In addition to the Antelope Valley, heat warnings are in effect for many other areas in California, such as the Cuyama Valley, parts of San Luis Obispo County, and large swaths of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Heat waves shine a glaring light on both local and global inequities. In low-income neighborhoods, with fewer trees and less access to air conditioning, "the heat wave is more punishing," Patzert said. "As CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, the misery level across the planet will certainly follow."

"If we don't do some serious environmental mediation, which means weaning ourselves off fossil fuel, and considerable adaptation, which means making air conditioning more available for more people, the heat waves of 2021 will seem mild in 2031," Patzert said. "We'll be referring to 2021 as the good old days."

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