Maricopa County shatters annual record with 645 heat-related deaths in 2023

Mar 13, 2024, 11:59 AM

A shirtless man transports water jugs on July 14, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona....

A person transports water jugs on July 14, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health confirmed a record 645 heat-related deaths in 2023. (File Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The number of heat-related deaths in metro Phoenix soared by more than 50% last year, setting a new annual record, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) confirmed 645 heat-related deaths in 2023, shattering the previous high of 425 from a year earlier.

“This tragic number shows us how much work we still have to do,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, MCDPH medical director, said in a press release. “With a coordinated county-wide strategy, nearly every one of these deaths can be prevented.”

What Valley cities had most heat-related deaths in 2023?

More than half the deaths, 340, occurred in Phoenix, the county’s largest city. Mesa was next with 51. Glendale (35), Scottsdale (25) and Tempe (24) were the only other Valley municipalities with more than 20 heat-related deaths in 2023.

Three-quarters of last year’s heat-related deaths occurred outdoors. Most of the indoor incidents happened when air conditioning was present, but the unit wasn’t functioning in 85% of those cases.

The number of annual heat-related deaths in metro Phoenix has risen every year since 2014. County health officials started tracking the incidents in 2006, when heat was confirmed to be a factor in 61 deaths.

Of 2023’s heat-related deaths, 59% were classified as heat-caused, meaning environmental heat was directly involved. Heat was considered a contributing factor in the other 41%.

Deaths surged during Phoenix’s record-setting summer

Phoenix endured record-setting heat last summer, with 133 days of at least 100 degrees and 55 days of at least 110 degrees.

The Valley was under National Weather Service excessive heat warnings for 42 days in 2023. Nearly three-quarters of the year’s heat-related deaths occurred on those days.

Sixty-four percent of the year’s heat-related deaths happened in July, when Phoenix endured the hottest month ever recorded in a U.S. city with an average temperature of 102.7 degrees.

“Deaths from heat are a major public health issue within our community, and it’s going to take support from every level to improve the situation,” Sunenshine said. “Individuals, small and large organizations, and municipalities all have a role to play in reducing heat deaths.”

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Maricopa County shatters annual record with 645 heat-related deaths in 2023