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Heat wave in West smashes records, threatens California’s electricity grid

A historic heat wave has effects on the West, breaking all-time, monthly and daily records and putting the California electricity grid to check. Heat is relentless, potentially peaking today but sticking around straight through the upcoming weekend.

The picture as a whole: The immediate reason behind heat wave can be an unusually strong section of ruthless, or heat dome, that’s parked on the western U.S., causing air to sink and dry, stifling any widespread rainfall.

  • By Tuesday morning, about 52 million individuals were under extreme heat warnings and advisories in six states.

Threat level: Yesterday, California ISO, the state’s grid operator, declared a Stage 2 emergency, switching on emergency generating capacity as demand threatened to exceed supply.

  • A lot of this emergency energy supply originates from gas plants, including generators meant specifically to kick on in events like this one.
  • Stage 3 emergencies trigger load shedding, otherwise referred to as rolling outages.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, California ISO declared a Stage 1 emergency. stating that electricity “deficiencies are anticipated.”
  • Grid management could be more challenging today, with a forecast for record power demand. A Flex Alert is in place for a seventh-straight day, contacting residents to save energy between 4 and 9 pm PT.
  • California ISO says it requires 2-3 times the voluntary load reductions observed in recent days in order to avoid rotating power outages today.

By the numbers: Here are some of yesterday’s notable records in California:

  • 112F: Saturated in Stockton, setting a monthly record.
  • 114F: High at Sacramento Executive Airport, smashing the old monthly record of 109F, set just 2 yrs ago.
  • 115F: High at Vacaville, beating the old monthly record by 3F.
  • 117F: Saturated in Fairfield, setting an all-time record.

Plus some of the forecast high temperatures for today:

  • 115F: Sacramento which may be an all-time record for just about any month.
  • 108F: San Jose
  • 104F: Oakland
  • 125F: Death Valley
  • 94F: LA (downtown)

Between your lines: This heat wave is further blow drying vegetation that has been already desiccated from the 22-year-long megadrought. A widespread region in the West, from California to Washington and eastward over the entire state of Montana is facing significant wildfire threats today.

  • On Monday, the Fairview Fire, that is a fast-moving blaze in southern California, killed 2 people since it grew by 500 acres in a single hour.
  • The blaze, burning about 80 miles east of LA, grew to 2,000 acres by late Monday, the Riverside County Fire Department tweeted.
  • Riverside County officials issued evacuation orders for a few 5,000 homes, per Cal Fire.

Zoom in: Firefighters are tackling 53 large fires over the U.S., based on the latest information from the National Interagency Fire Center.

  • Two different people were killed in the Mill Fire on the weekend since it tore through the rural Northern California community of Weed.
  • The Mountain Fire Siskiyou County, close to the Oregon border, has burned 11,690 acres and was 20% contained on Tuesday morning, per Cal Fire.
  • More fires are anticipated to ignite Tuesday and may grow rapidly in proportions, exhibiting extreme behavior.
  • Heat presents a health risk to firefighters, and also increasing the fire danger overall.

Context: Heat waves have become more prevalent, more intense and longer-lasting because of human-caused global warming.

  • Some studies, actually, have shown that one extreme heat events could have been virtually impossible minus the climate change component.
  • While attribution studies with this event will wait until after it winds down, the large area heat wave has effects on, together with the record strength of heat dome and the hot temperatures, all bear the hallmarks of a climate change-influenced extreme event.

What they’re saying: “This heat wave is on the right track to be both hottest and the longest on record because of this state and several elements of the West for the month of September,” California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) said in a Twitter video urging greater energy saving.

What we’re watching: Heat may peak today, with Sacramento creating a run at 115F.

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