Sizzling Arizona Temperatures Pose Big Health Risks — Why It's So Hot There


Jul. 27 2023, Published 1:17 p.m. ET

visitors to South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Ariz.
Source: Getty Images

Among the many places across of the U.S. that experienced soaring temperatures in the summer of 2023, Arizona is one of the hottest. In fact, the heat can send people falling onto even-hotter pavement that causes burns, as People reported in July. But why is Arizona so hot, and is there any hope for cooling it down?

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July 2023 brought Earth's hottest day on record, so clearly it's not only Arizona residents who are suffering from the sizzling temperatures. But the state certainly faces a massive challenge in trying to help residents tolerate the heat.

handwritten sign stating today's high temperature is 115 degrees
Source: Getty Images

A sign posted on July 25, 2023 in Phoenix, Ariz. during record heat waves.

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Why is Arizona so hot?

According to The Guardian, much of Arizona's heat problem stems from climate change. "Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, is accustomed to a hot desert climate, but day and night temperatures have been rising due to global heating and the city’s unchecked development, which has created a sprawling urban heat island," the news outlet reported in January 2022.

Rising temperatures throughout the globe have of course led to Arizona experiencing ever-hotter temperatures as well. Unfortunately, as CNN explained, studies indicate that of all natural disasters, heat is the top killer of humans — so it's disturbing to think of places like Arizona becoming even more unbearable in the hottest months.

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The Guardian noted that in Phoenix in particular, urban growth has compounded the effects of climate change. Since the 1950s when air conditioning became more common, the city expanded its concrete infrastructure and reduced its green spaces. Those changes have created "heat islands" which are urban areas that "absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes."

Any disruption to normal climate patterns can have an impact, too. The New York Times reported in July 2023 that delayed monsoons that usually come from the Gulf of Mexico and help add moisture to dry mountains and deserts have made Arizona's heat problem worse.

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homeless encampment in Arizona
Source: Getty Images

Homeless individuals suffer especially during heat waves and don't always know where to find cooling centers.

It's so hot in Arizona that people are burning themselves on the ground.

This heat is no laughing matter. Valleywise Health Medical Center Communications Director Michael Murphy told CNN, “It doesn’t cool down here at all and surface temps can get so ridiculously high and people can get burns in a matter of seconds.”

Emergency room doctor Frank LoVecchio also told CNN, “The heat is taking a major toll." He explained that in the sun, pavement can reach up to 180 degrees.

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One woman learned the hard way and shared a video of her blistered feet on TikTok. She stated, "I ran outside barefoot...for less than 2 ARIZONA. I have send degree burns." Certainly, that's not a wise decision during record-setting temperatures, but as People reported, some people are receiving injuries due to falling on the hot ground.

Can Arizona do anything to improve conditions during hot weather?

Arizona leaders are making plans to try and combat the continually rising temperatures. Per The Guardian, the mayor of Phoenix announced the city's first dedicated team working on the problem of urban heat. Planting trees to increase shade access is one part of the plan, as well as cool pavement that is painted over asphalt to reflect sun, although these are limited solutions to the larger problem of global heating.

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