California Faces New Round of Record Heat This Weekend

Record heat will scorch the West starting this weekend, likely taxing California’s power grid for days.

Temperatures will rise 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 17 Celsius) above normal from the Pacific Northwest through California, toppling records and lasting into next week, said Lara Pagano, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. The heat comes a week after the California Independent System Operator, which runs the power grid, struggled to meet peak demand as highs reached about 110 degrees in many areas for days.

“California ISO is going to be stressed next week,” said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group. “It is going to be a growing problem to maintain power in the grid.”

The most populous U.S. state flirted with a repeat of historic rotating outages that briefly darkened parts of the region in August. The new threat signals what may become a pattern across the West this summer and underscores the magnitude of challenges for officials struggling to address growing heat, drought and wildfire threats linked to climate change.

“We are monitoring weather conditions closely,” said Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the California ISO. She said a conservation alert isn’t planned, though Californians should “remain vigilant in case we need to ask for help.”

The ongoing drought across the West will weigh on hydro-electric generation and there probably won’t be much wind when the heat adds to supply issues, Rouiller said. Nearly 95% of California is gripped by drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

In addition to the stress on California, Oregon and Washington also face record temperatures that will further strain power supplies around the West.

Long-range computer models suggest this pattern of scorching heat will continue through mid-July at least.

“A lot of the models are showing another pretty decent heatwave across the West,” Pagano said. “We’re talking record temperatures again for this coming weekend.”

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