A potentially life-threatening heat wave is about to hit large swathes of the US—and forecasters warn that it could linger for weeks. Experts say higher than average temperatures will affect a huge area from Colorado and eastern New Mexico across the Plains and into the Northeast, NBC reports. "The first half of July looks to have well-above-normal temperatures, at pretty high probabilities, beginning around the Fourth of July or slightly before," says Jon Gottschalck at the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center. He warns that powerful thunderstorms could form around the edges of the heat dome in a "ring of fire" pattern likely to be most severe in the northern Plains.
"Our models indicate that this is going to be somewhat persistent through the first two weeks of July, and potentially longer. With temperatures set to feel hotter in Dallas than in Death Valley, heat warnings are already in effect for 22 million Americans in states from Missouri to Texas, CNN reports. Experts say the humidity will be so high in cities including New Orleans, Tulsa ,and Wichita that sweat won't evaporate effectively, putting people at severe risk of heat stroke. National Center for Atmospheric Research climate scientist Julie Caron tells NBC that the pandemic will make it harder for cities to provide relief, and vulnerable people may have to choose to "either stay home and risk the heat or go to a cooling center and risk exposure to the virus." (Read more heat wave stories.)