Heat Dome: Extreme temperatures claim hundreds of lives in US, Canada; here’s everything you need to know

By: |
July 02, 2021 12:56 PM

The sudden surge in temperature is the result of a phenomenon that is commonly referred to as ‘heat dome.’

heat domeA team of scientists believes that this major change in ocean temperature is the reason for the heat dome. (Photo source: Reuters)

Hundreds believed to be dead because of historic heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada that lasted for around a week. Millions of people continue to suffer as temperatures in these areas remain several degrees higher than normal. According to a report in The Indian Express, the temperature reached as high as 46.7 degrees Celsius in Portland on June 29. In Salem, the highest temperature was recorded at about 47 degrees Celsius on June 28. Similarly in Lytton in British Columbia, the temperature soared to over 46 degrees Celsius. The sudden surge in temperature is the result of a phenomenon that is commonly referred to as ‘heat dome.’ Because of this, people are reportedly scrambling to buy air conditioners, several of them being first-time buyers.

What Is Heat Dome?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that a heat dome is a phenomenon when the atmosphere traps hot air like a lid or cap. Explaining the phenomenon, the NOAA said that if a heater is turned on inside a swimming pool, the portion of the pool closer to the heater will warm up faster, and hence the temperature will be higher. In the same way, the temperature of the western Pacific ocean has increased in the past few decades and is few degrees higher than the eastern Pacific. A team of scientists believes that this major change in ocean temperature is the reason for the heat dome. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Portland, the condition can last for more than two days and has the potential of covering a large area, “exposing a high number of people to hazardous heat.”

Randall Munroe was quoted as saying by a report in The New York Times that a person can avoid overheating by drinking water constantly and staying in a room with about 10 per cent relative humidity while wearing minimal clothing. So the body will remain cool if it is producing sweat and that is able to get evaporated quickly. But, Munroe noted that there is a limit to this.

Is this the result of climate change?

There is no evidence to claim that heat wave is a direct result of global warming. Scientists usually remain cautious while liking climate change to any contemporary event. This is because that the possibility of the event having been caused by other reasons cannot be ruled out completely. There is also the possibility of such an event happening because of natural variability.

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