How the Heat Can Impact Flights

Tonya and Lavonda Williams traveled from Orlando, Florida, to Sin City to see the Backstreet Boys in concert.

Las Vegas hit 117 degrees late Tuesday afternoon, tying a record that has happened only three other times in the city's history, the first in 1937 and the most recent four years ago.

The mercury also hit 100 degrees at 8:42 a.m., which was a few minutes earlier than Tuesday.

This is a reminder of the record setting of Phoenix's high temperature on June 26, 1990 of 122 degrees that was the day that grounded airlines for a day.

The soaring heat has affected much of the western United States where triple-digit temperatures were expected throughout the week, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service said.

Experts say hot air affects engine output and increases the required plane speed and runway length for takeoff - and since the CRJ, a Canadian plane, has not been tested under those conditions, it hasn't been verified as safe in temperatures above 118 degrees. Sky Harbor's runways are long enough to accommodate most planes in hot weather, American Airlines said.

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Airplanes take off and stay in the air because of lift - the force from the movement of air under the plane's wings that push it upward. More than 40 flights have been cancelled in Phoenix due to temperatures potentially reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That is what American Airlines did during the recent Phoenix heat wave. In fact, temperatures at that mark or higher have only been reached 15 times since record-keeping started in 1896.

As temperatures climbed into the triple digits across the region, major airlines were forced to delay or cancel flights out of Las Vegas and Phoenix airports, citing difficulty in operating aircraft in extreme heat.

According to the statement, the planes have a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. On Wednesday, Tucson could break a new daily record, which now stands at 112 degrees.

Temperature records have already fallen across California and heat will build throughout the week. Research published on Monday showed that half the world's population will face life-threatening heat waves by 2100 unless carbon pollution is curbed.

And while forecasters say the heat was expected to peak on Tuesday, excessive heat warnings remain in effect through Sunday evening in parts of Arizona, Nevada and California. The buildup of warmth creates a large-scale trough of low pressure that extends from Mexico to Arizona, Southern California and Nevada. As air temperature rises, the density of the air decreases - making the air thinner.

Tucson, for example, experiences its wettest months in July and August, although the monsoon can last through September. "So if we didn't have these hot temperatures right now, we wouldn't have any chance for a monsoon later on in the year".

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