A dangerous heat wave, even as measured against the standards of the often-scorching Southwest, is in the process of developing now and will continue to intensify this week. This comes on top of the worst drought across the western United States in modern history.

Not only does the heat pose a health risk, but the hot weather and drought combined means the ground will only further dry out, making for tinderbox fire conditions. Right now a record-shattering 27% of the West is in "exceptional drought" — the highest category. The 20 year record since 2000 was only 11%.

The early season heat wave is being caused by a large upper-level heat dome centered from the Rockies into Canada. It is so strong for this time of year that it will challenge all-time June records for intensity early this week. Its core spreads westward into California by Wednesday and Thursday.

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