Temperatures reach 40C in American heatwave

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Los Angeles

You could be forgiven for thinking it's summer.

Click here to upload graphic: The Sweltering States (176.01kB)

A heatwave which has set records across a swathe of central and eastern regions of the US, and been blamed for at least 22 deaths, is poised to continue through the weekend, forecasters predicted yesterday.

Electricity firms in New York and Boston reported occasional "brownouts" as air conditioning unites placed huge demand on the electricity grid. National average temperatures on Thursday and Friday were hotter than at any time since 1950.

A so-called "dome" of high pressure, which has trapped a layer of extremely moist air beneath it, is responsible for the sweltering conditions. In Washington DC, it produced temperatures of 39C in the shade yesterday, the highest since 1926. With humidity taken into account, the effective temperature was 45C.

Philadelphia was expected to break a 1957 record of 37.7C (100F). Boston was one or two degrees cooler than the 40C record that was set in 1911. New York was 37.2C.

The heatwave is just the latest incident in a summer of extreme weather-related events to have hit the US, with tornadoes in Missouri, floods and wildfires in Arizona and a crippling drought in Texas, which has experienced its hottest June on record.

Ironically, polls indicate that the US public remains sceptical about the existence of man-made climate change. News coverage has instead focused on less weighty issues. In Pittsburgh, news crews rushed to a house where a man working on the roof had slipped and found himself stuck to hot tar. Lamont Robinson said he was "baking like a turkey" before rescuers arrived.

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