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Heat Dome

August 1, 2016

This Summer’s Heating Up – And Fast 

 

 

Scorching hot temperatures gripped much of the continental U.S. this past weekend, reaching all the way from North Dakota to the mid-Atlantic states and into the deep South. 

 

Of course it is the middle of the summer, so warm weather is to be expected – but not to this high a degree.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in several states such as Georgia, Texas, and Kansas this weekend; with the highest temperature in the United States recorded at 121 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, California, this past Saturday.  These temperatures may not be record-breaking; however their length of stay is what makes them particularly unpleasant.  The National Weather Service anticipates temperatures to cool down later this week, but at a rather slow and steady decline.

 

So what is the cause of these surging temperatures?  A high pressure system known as a ‘heat dome.’  Eli Jacks, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, best describes how this natural occurrence comes about: “a high pressure system develops in the upper atmosphere, the air below it sinks and compresses because there's more weight on top, causing temperatures in the lower atmosphere to heat up,” he explains. “The dome of high pressure also pushes the jet stream and its drier, cooler air, farther north — it's now well into Canada — while hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico circulates clockwise around the dome, traveling farther inland than normal."

 

Some areas are at even more risk than others since this heatwave can have a compounding effect when combined with other factors such as poor air quality and another weather phenomenon known as ‘corn sweat.’ Present mainly in the Midwest, ‘corn sweat’ is a weather phenomenon that occurs when plants undergo evapotranspiration at a higher rate than usual, thereby releasing more water vapor into the atmosphere and increasing humidity levels.  This increase in humidity, along with the increase in temperatures from the heat dome, create a very high heat index. 

 

So in the event of this heat dome, necessary precautions should be taken to reduce risks of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Best thing is to be aware of the warning signs, stay properly hydrated, and avoid spending extended periods of time outdoors.  Other than that, stay calm and keep cool! 

 

References: http://www.thewire.com/national/2011/07/whats-heat-dome-anyway/40291/

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/weather/what-heat-dome-everything-you-need-know-n614176 

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