Union Pacific reported 19 cars derailed along Highway 99 between Delano and Earlimart. No one was hurt.
Aubrey Henry from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said a refrigerated boxcar leaked about 30 gallons of fuel, but none reached the nearby canal or impacted wildlife. Henry works in the Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
Union Pacific spokesperson Justin Jacobs said Wednesday that the heat triggers extra track inspections throughout the area and slower maximum speeds for freight trains. The company spent Wednesday making repairs to the damaged portion of track, hoping to bring it back online by Wednesday night.
Jacobs confirmed that the track had warped in the heat, but added that the railroad would continue to investigate all other possible causes.
An intense heat wave is building in the Desert Southwest, threatening to tie or topple all-time record high temperatures. And you know that's saying something for Phoenix.
The high temperature reached 118 degrees there Monday and was expected to reach near 120 degrees Tuesday -- and possibly even into Wednesday. The 118 degree reading tied a record high on Monday -- set just last year -- and the National Weather Service says it was tied for their fifth hottest day on record.
If Phoenix manages to reach 120 degrees Tuesday, it will only be the third time in the city's history. Phoenix's all-time record high is 122 degrees.
Those lofty temperatures were an issue for some air travelers going through Sky Harbor Airport because extreme heat creates changes in the air density that make it harder for airplanes to take off. American Airlines says seven regional flights were delayed and 43 have been canceled in and out of Phoenix Tuesday.
The cancellations are for operations by smaller regional jets that have lower maximum operating temperatures than full-size airliners. Those jets can't operate when it's 118 degrees or above.
American Airlines pilot Shane Coffey said extreme heat means pilots have to use more thrust or impose weight restrictions such as flying with less cargo.
Air density on a 90-degree day in Denver at more than 5,000 feet elevation is similar to a 120-degree day in Phoenix at 1,100 feet above sea level, he said.
In 1990, amid a similar heat wave when Phoenix hit that record 122 degrees, flights were cancelled at the Phoenix airport because there was too much uncertainty about how the heat would affect aviation performance. Now, airlines have a better understanding, but the heat is still a concern — primarily for smaller, regional jets.
To that effect, American Airlines has been warning passengers that it may have to ground flights in Phoenix and is letting passengers flying during peak heat times through Wednesday to change flights without a fee.
While a touch cooler in other parts of the Southwest that should not impact air traffic, some other all-time record highs could be threatened. For example, the temperature reached 113 in Las Vegas Monday and was forecast to hit 117 on Tuesday, which would tie their all-time hottest day.
In fact, much of the West Coast will be broiling in summer-time heat as the solstice arrives on Tuesday. People in Arizona typically flee for cooler mountain climates when it gets hot, but going north won't provide much of an escape this time.
Flagstaff is expected to spend most of the week with highs above 90 degrees, which is so rare many residents don't have air conditioning.
"Extremely high temperatures are a little unusual for northern Arizona," said Coconino County's Deputy Chief Health Officer Mike Oxtoby.
Residents without air conditioners are advised to "pull shades over the windows and use cross-ventilation and fans to cool rooms."
One place you can beat the heat? Western Washington and Western Oregon -- where we'll be basking in the comfort of highs in the 70s:
The desert Southwest will "cool" off about 5 degrees or so to the 110-115 range by the end of the week, but on the flip side, the Pacific Northwest will begin to warm up a bit with highs climbing into the low-mid 80s by next weekend.
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Green for hot? The irony didn’t escape meteorologist Mark Torregrossa, who elaborated on the color conundrum in an article for the Michigan news channel MLive. “All of the orange and red shades are used. The next stage of heat, depicted by what I would call violet colors, is blown right through on this temperature map. I guess finally you get so hot you turn green,” he wrote.
By 2100, climate change could make that extreme a typical hot summer day in the Persian Gulf.
And the worst heat could be in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, according to a study published Oct. 26 in Nature Climate Change.
With 1.6 million people living in the metropolitan area, Dhahran hosts the headquarters of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, a.k.a. Aramco, which owns the largest oil reserves in the world.
Right now, typical summer days in the city crest at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humid air blowing off the coast of the Persian Gulf can make daytime activities difficult without the aid of air conditioning.
Dhahran isn't alone. If climate change continues on the path it's on today, the study found, maximum temperatures in Kuwait City and Al Ain, United Arab Emirates are expected to climb above 140 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
The researchers, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used climate models to predict what regional temperatures would look like on the Arabian Peninsula by 2100 if the world doesn't start cutting carbon emissions.
Dhahran had the highest maximum "wet-bulb temperature" reported in the study at 91.94 degrees Fahrenheit. This projection could become the new normal for extreme summer days by the end of the century.
The study analyzed both dry-bulb temperature we normally hear in a weather report, like the 140 degree figure above, and the wet-bulb temperature, which accounts for both heat and humidity. If the wet-bulb reading gets above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the human body can no longer cool itself off, even when fully drenched with sweat. This is when health problems like heat stroke can set in, even for young and healthy people.
At the tail end of a week-long heat wave, with temperatures in triple digits in several cities across Southern California, tourists are flocking to…Death Valley.
The thermometer outside Death Valley National Park’s Furnace Creek Visitor Center hit a scorching 131 degrees Wednesday, a sight immortalized on Instagram by tourists who braved the unrelenting heat.
Keep that grim benchmark in mind as you consider the following confirmed heat index data for Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, a city of 100,000 people on the Persian Gulf. The effective temperature hovered in the mid-triple digits for a week, rising to an egg-cooking, brow-scorching 165 degrees Fahrenheit this past Friday. That’s one of the hottest days humanity has ever recorded.
It’s a “very rare” event, Nick Wiltgen, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, told msnbc. But one of his colleagues at the Weather Underground has actually seen higher: On July 8, 2003, the heat index reached at least 176 degrees Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Both temperatures are literally off the charts. The heat index, developed in 1979, inputs air temperature and dew point to estimate the “feels like” figure for a given day. At the time, however, the highest heat index that researchers were capable of imagining was 136 degrees—which is an air temperature of 110 degrees and a dew point of 80.
Iran beat the chart by a wide margin, with air temperatures 115 degrees and a dew point of 90. The heat index is not an official statistic tracked by governments, so international records are hard to confirm. In the U.S., however, the highest heat index Wiltgen has ever seen is 144 degrees in Sheldon, Iowa, on July 29, 1999.
What does that kind of heat actually feel like? The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang posted a first-person account from a reader who lived through Saudi Arabia’s 176 degree day in 2003.
“When the winds come off the Persian Gulf you just can’t imagine how awful it gets,” the reader wrote. “You’d walk outside and it felt immediately like someone pressed a hot wet towel, like you sometimes get on airplanes, over your entire head. I wear glasses, and they’d immediately fog up. You sweat instantly.”
Remarkably, this kind of heat is more or less normal for the Persian Gulf, an area that doesn’t need climate change to get crazy hot. Residents who can afford it live under a dome of air conditioning. Many others become nocturnal, sleeping through the heat, and using the night for work or play.
Except, not every underground railway in the world has this problem. And once upon a time, London didn’t either: when the Bakerloo line first opened, posters suggested it was a good place to keep cool on a hot day, an idea that’s clearly nonsensical in 2017.
Without major reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, up to three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat by 2100. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change.
“Lethal heatwaves are very common. I don’t know why we as a society are not more concerned about the dangers,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author. “The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks.”