Arizona Record Heat

PHOENIX — Last month, Phoenix recorded a high temperature of 97 degrees, making it the hottest November day in the city’s history. On Nov. 17, Phoenix broke another record when it experienced the latest 90-degree day in a calendar year.

The city also experienced a record-breaking 144 days at or above 100 degrees this year, beating the previous record set in 1989. These record-breaking temperatures can be attributed to several factors, including climate change and lack of rain.

Phoenix’s climate has been trending upwards for decades due to urban sprawl and an increase of heat-absorbing surfaces like asphalt and concrete. Human-caused climate change and the urban heat island effect have contributed to this upward trend. Phoenix’s “heat island” collects heat during the day and keeps overnight temperatures significantly warmer.

Ray Quay, a research professional with the Decision Center for a Desert City project in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, expects temperatures to continue on this upward trend.

“Arizona is one of the locations that has been estimated to potentially experience some of the larger increases in temperature over the next 100 years,” Quay said.

Phoenix experienced its hottest summer to date this year, with an average temperature of 96.7, surpassing 2015′s 95.1 degrees. Both climate change and weather patterns made this past summer the hottest and the driest in Arizona history.

This increase of hot weather is a part of an ongoing global trend. 2020 is setting up to be the hottest recorded year on Earth so far as temperatures continue to rise globally.

Extreme heat is a clear indicator of global warming, and extreme heat events like this are becoming more common.

Everyone is affected by warming temperatures, but “people that are already vulnerable to social and economic stress will be the first impacted,” Quay said.

Homeless people will be severely impacted because they have few opportunities to seek shelter and their health is already jeopardized by conditions of homelessness. People with chronic conditions, such as heart disease and asthma, will also be impacted by additional stress that heat brings.

Cities like Phoenix may have to resort to extreme measures in order to subdue the effects of global warming.

“It is not likely that this trend can be reversed in the near term,” Quay said. “However there are mitigation actions we can take to try and avoid it getting much worse.”

Developers may need to reconsider the design and materials used in urban environments in order to reduce urban heat island effects.

“We can change our habits and practices to be more aware of heat and its impact on our comfort and economy,” Quay said. “As temperatures increase these types of adjustments will become greater, and the impact on quality of life and economy will increase.”


Walt Campbell is a student in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.