In a way, to call this a "pressure cooker" could be considered more than just a metaphor. The high-pressure zone has literally exerted a downward influence on the air over the Southwest. Since clouds and rainfall require rising air motions (not to mention adequate moisture), large-scale sinking air tends to prevent or inhibit precipitation from developing.
That means more sunshine, which in turn, means more heat. In addition, the air mass itself is warmer in the first place, so the sun is heating up air that's already toasty to start with.
Relative to historical norms, the epicenter of the heat has been over central and southern Arizona and southeastern California.
Phoenix's 117-degree high Aug. 14 made it the hottest day of 2015, surpassing the 115 recorded June 18. Of the past 20 years (1995 through 2014), Phoenix's annual high temperature has only occurred in August three times: 2012, 2004 and 1999. In 2004 and 1999 August shared the crown with July.
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