PHOENIX – An unusually early and long-lasting heat wave brought more triple-digit temperatures to a large part of the western United States on Wednesday, raising fears that such extreme weather could become the new normal amid a decades-long drought.

Phoenix, which experiences some of the hottest temperatures this week, set a record for the second day in a row hitting 115 degrees (46 Celsius) on Wednesday and is expected to hit 117 (47 Celsius) each of the next two days, the National Weather said. Service.

Scientists studying drought and climate change say people in the American West can expect to see the same thing in the years to come.

“Heat waves are getting worse in the west because the ground is so dry” because of the region’s mega-drought, said Park Williams, a climate and fire specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles who calculated that the soil in the western half of the country is the driest since 1895. “We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before summer is over.”

A few clouds kept temperatures slightly in the desert region of southwestern Arizona and southeastern California. But no real relief was expected from the excessive heat warning in effect until at least Sunday. Palm Springs peaked at 120 degrees on Tuesday,

The high pressure dome spread over the west the week before the official start of summer, causing unusually warm days and evenings.

Expecting crowds trying to cool off, half a dozen lifeguards wearing wide-brimmed straw hats and red T-shirts over swimsuits waited for people to arrive at a downtown municipal swimming pool of Phoenix with a slide and several fountains. A few blocks away, men in the open air were sprinkling dinners on restaurant terraces.

In California, the state’s electricity grid operator is asking residents to voluntarily conserve electricity for a few hours Thursday night as record heat blankets the west this week.

The California Independent System Operator has issued the alert to help relieve stress on the network. He asks people to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, turn off unnecessary lights, and avoid using major appliances. CEO Elliot Mainzer said the network is stable and there is no expectation of rotating power outages, but that could change as temperatures rise in the coming days.

Warmer temperatures were also felt in the normally temperate San Francisco Bay area. A few cooling centers were open but mostly empty in the afternoon.

Kathleen Craft, shelter coordinator for the city of Livermore, Calif., Said temperatures reached 99 degrees (37 degrees Celsius) shortly after noon, but only one woman showed up at the city’s cooling center .

“We anticipate that we will see more people tomorrow when a temperature of 108 degrees is forecast,” Craft said.

Elsewhere in the West, triple-digit heat was forecast in Denver, which on Tuesday posted a record 101 degrees (38 Celsius). The weather service has issued an excessive heat warning for parts of western Colorado, most of which experience extreme drought conditions.

On Wednesday, Bekka Hamburg was trying to beat the heat by paddling on a lake just west of downtown Denver.

“I rented this (paddleboard) a week ago knowing it would be around 100 degrees,” said the 24-year-old visiting from Indianapolis. “I didn’t take any pants or t-shirts. I just packed tank tops and shorts.

Hamburg said it was the first time it has experienced Colorado’s “dry heat”, adding that it is much more manageable than the damp heat common in the Midwest.

In Nevada, Las Vegas reached 116 degrees (46.6 degrees Celsius), breaking the record 114 degrees (45.5 degrees Celsius) for the date set during a record-breaking heat wave on June 16, 1940.

The region is expected to remain at 113 degrees (45 ° C) or higher until Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist John Salmen, and could still exceed the local record of 117 degrees (47 degrees Celsius), set on June 20. 2017.

“It’s quite impressive. We are seeing all-time records falling, ”said Salmen.

New Mexico also had higher records. But a possible respite was in sight with showers and thunderstorms expected in parts of the state.

In Montana, temperatures above 100 degrees (38 Celsius) made it more difficult to fight forest fires that exploded in size, triggering evacuations and destroying an unknown number of homes. High winds fanned the flames and forced a forced landing of a firefighting helicopter.

At least 14 new fires have been reported in Montana and Wyoming since Tuesday.

Dry weather was also making itself felt in Idaho, where authorities are bracing for what could be a difficult wildfire season.

Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center, told state officials this week that nearly 80% of Idaho is in drought and the rest will likely suffer in the coming months. He said Idaho had experienced its second driest spring in the past 126 years.

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Associated Press reporters Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Thomas Peipert and Brittany Peterson in Denver; Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; Ken Ritter in Las Vegas; and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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