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Brutal heat grips the Southwest as drought fuels fire threat

Phoenix has already broken the record for most 110-degree-Fahrenheit days in one calendar year.

Mother Nature hasn't lent any helping hand in terms of the expansive drought and increasing fire weather concerns across the Southwest this summer. Looking ahead through this week, worried residents may see much more of the same.

While hot and dry conditions are not uncommon across Arizona's Sun Valley, July and August typically have an uptick in clouds and rainfall courtesy of monsoon moisture that streams into the region.

Unfortunately, in 2020 that has not been the case as a stagnant ridge of high pressure overhead has limited this much-needed moisture from advancing into the region.

Through the months of July and so far through August, Phoenix has only observed 0.10 of an inch of rainfall to date, with the last measurable rainfall occurring on July 24th. Normally through that same stretch, rainfall totals of just over an inch are typically observed. As a result of the lack of moisture, well above-average temperatures have been observed through the same duration.

Speaking of temperatures, we're not even at the half-way point through the month of August and Phoenix has already broken the record for most 110-degree-Fahrenheit days in one calendar year. After a high of 112 degrees on Sunday, Phoenix has observed 34 days this year at or above 110 degrees, beating out 2011, when the mercury climbed to 110 degrees 33 times.

The upcoming week will have very little relief from the heat in Phoenix, with forecast highs near 110 through Tuesday, then climbing even higher to near-record territory by midweek.

While not quite as hot as Sun Valley, places like Salt Lake City, Utah, Grand Junction, Colorado, El Paso, Texas, and even Albuquerque, New Mexico, have all observed above-average heat and below-average rainfall this summer. Similarly in these cities, the heat will build through this week.

"The duration of this wave of record heat will be impressive, beginning around the middle of the week and lasting right into next week. This can put a strain on visitors to the area and perhaps even some long-time residents," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.

In the coming days across the Southwest, describing the expansive warmth as "hot" may be an understatement as record-high temperatures may be challenged in some cities as the ridge of high pressure responsible for the weather pattern maintains its grip.

"Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, are among the cities that will challenge record highs daily during this time frame," Duff added.

The persistent heat will result in other issues across the Southwest as well this week, including reduced air quality, a building wildfire threat and high energy demands.

Heat-related illnesses will continue to remain a concern for anyone having to spend an extended stretch of time outdoors this week as well. If possible, spending time outdoors outside of the peak heating hours of the day will help minimize these issues. Of course, drinking plenty of non-alcoholic, hydrating fluids can also help combat the heat as well.

As previously mentioned, the lack of moisture across the Southwest will result in very isolated coverage of showers and thunderstorms during the afternoon hours through a majority of the week. Most of the rainfall will occur across the high terrain, meaning little relief for those in the valleys.

Unfortunately, the outlook through this weekend and into next week suggests more of the same across much of the Southwest as the ridge of high pressure will remain reluctant to move. One saving grace may come towards the end of the month as tropical activity in the eastern Pacific Ocean may be able to bring a push of moisture into the Southwest.