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SPECIAL REPORT: Desert Heat – scientists say temperatures are going up

Nature turns up the heat on the Desert Southwest - News 11's Jenny Day reports

YUMA, Ariz.(KYMA, KECY) - The Desert Southwest is in the heart of summer. We see triple digits daily and monsoon season has left us feeling sticky, but it doesn't just feel like it's getting hotter - it actually is.

On average Yuma sees 308 sunny days, out of the 365 we spin around the sun. "Specifically trends over the past few decades show temps rising," said Paul Iniguez.

I interviewed both Iniguez and Erin Saffell. He is a scientist with the National Weather Service. She is the State Climatologist. Both have concerns about our increasingly hotter planet. "I'm concerned about wildland fires," Saffell said. And as wildfires rage on earlier and more intensely, these two experts say we're in store for yet another hot and fiery summer. Both cite climate change.

"There's an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That ends up trapping energy that's coming from the sun and not allowing it to radiate up towards space. It's like putting a blanket on the planet. This is not something new. This is a realization of all these projections, that have been going on for decades - now seeing it play out in front of our eyes," Iniguez said.

So while temperatures are rising, it is happening very slowly. Yuma has increased by just .2 degrees in the past 30 years. Bigger cities, like Phoenix, climbing even faster. "There's a gradual increase in temperatures year by year. It's getting hotter earlier, staying hotter longer into the fall," Iniguez said.

The hotter temperatures, and lack of rain are also contributing to the drought. "Some of the most intense drought conditions have been in place for the past several years. It's a significant situation," Iniguez added.

The earliest day Yuma ever reached 100 degrees was back in March of 1916 and the latest in the year it has ever stayed in the triple digits was October 1959. But the greatest number of 100 degree days happened just last year. 148 Days exceeded 100 degrees, in 2020.

The hottest day for Yuma, ever recorded was July 1995 - at an impressive 124 degrees. So no, we are not setting records year after year, but generally speaking, the trend is upwards. "It's not something we see from one year to the next, but if you're someone who lives in Yuma your entire life and a generation goes by, it's something you'll be able to witness," Iniguez said.

"What you'll see is 120 degrees more often. It's already happened six times in Yuma," Saffell said.

If you are looking for ways to do your part, there are things you can do. Easy examples include, taking shorter showers, not letting the water run, using less plastic, turning off lights, riding a bike when the weather permits, maybe even changing your pipes to low flow. And get involved.

There are state and federal agencies that are making a difference:

Climate Change | FEMA.go

National Weather Service

Join us Sunday night for a special Olympic Edition of News 11 Nightside to see Jenny Day's full report.

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Jenny Day

You can catch Jenny Day anchoring KYMA News 11 at 5, 6, and 10 p.m. weekdays.

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