What is a heated dome?
If you think this summer has been extremely hot, you are not mistaken. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States is being blanketed in sweltering temperatures, once again. CNBC reports that a thermal dome is affecting much of the country, raising temperatures 15 degrees higher than normal.
Simply put, a thermal dome occurs when warm ocean air is trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by high pressure. In years when La Niña warms the western Pacific, warm air begins to form over the ocean and pushes east across the land. A high pressure “dome” traps hot air and sinks to the ground. This dome prevents heat from escaping, thus making everything warmer.
While heated domes are common, some are more serious and can cause widespread problems.
The Pacific Northwest has faced intense heat for weeks. As The New York Times reports, Washington and Oregon have already set triple-digit temperature records. The heat overwhelmed hospitals in weather-related emergencies and resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people.
Heating domes can even cause forest fires and disrupt marine life. The thermal dome in western Canada last month killed more than a billion marine animals along the Pacific coast, according to the Guardian.
A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change [PDF] predicts that climate change will amplify the frequency and intensity of extreme heat. Consider investing in a great (energy efficient) air conditioner, as there may be more heated domes in the years to come.