It’s so hot in Phoenix right now that planes can’t fly. No…really.

Temperatures soar to 120°F, exceeding the operating range of some airliners

American Airlines canceled 43 flights today at the Phoenix Airport when temperatures soared to 120°F, the Arizona Republic reported. The scorching heat tied the all-time high for Phoenix, only recorded three times in history. The stifling heat was felt all across the southwest, through California and Nevada where high temperatures are shattering previous records and causing power outages as people crank up their air conditioners to stay cool.

Small, regional aircrafts cannot take off in temperatures greater than 117°F, according to a statement by American Airlines. Hot air is thinner than cool air, requiring more speed and longer runways for planes to take off. The runways at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport are not long enough to accommodate these needs.

This wasn’t the first time flights have been delayed or canceled due to extreme heat. In 2012, a plane at Reagan National Airport in Washington was delayed 3 hours after getting stuck in soft pavement due to extreme temperatures. In 2013, 18 flights were canceled in Phoenix when temperatures reached 119°F.

The current heat wave in the southwest is a classic sign of climate change. Records tend to be broken when natural fluctuations pair up with climate change, in this case leading to hotter temperatures. This particular event was driven by a massive heat dome settling over the southwest. Heat domes, which act like a lid on the atmosphere and keeps hot air inside, are rare, but have become more common recently due to rising global temperatures.

Extreme heat events like this will be more common in a warmer world. 2016 was the hottest year on record, surpassing 2014 and 2015 which held the previous records.

This record-breaking and plane-grounding heat comes during the same week that Trump’s cabinet revives its climate denial parade. Yesterday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry denied that carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Perry instead claimed that “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

(Remember, this is also the same Perry that infamously forgot the name of the third government agency he wanted to abolish. In case you forgot, it was the Energy Department.)

With this stunt, CNBC is becoming “Cable TV’s Safest Space for Trump’s Climate Deniers.”

All of the hot air coming from the Trump administration is certainly not helping the climate crisis. We can only hope that their environmental rollbacks end up like these flights in Phoenix — canceled.


Garrett Blad writes for I Heart Climate Scientists and other publications on climate change, policy and social change. You can follow him @gblad.