An extensive heatwave is set to descend upon much of the US this coming week, further affecting areas that are already suffering from severe drought, water shortages and wildfires. The heat dome is one of the latest effects caused by global temperature rise and impact of climate change. 

heat dome
Source: severe-weather.eu

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that the massive “heat dome” of excessive heat will bring increased temperatures to the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the northern sections of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific North-West and California and will last for around two weeks.

A “heat dome” describes an event when an area of high-pressure parks over a large portion of the continent and stays there for days. It works like a lid on a pot, trapping hot air mass underneath. 

Temperatures are expected to reach 37 degrees Celsius in the Dakotas and Montana, while areas in states including Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma may reach temperatures of up to 43C. Cities such as Des Moines, Minneapolis and Chicago will get significantly above-average heat.

These heatwaves are likely to bring thunderstorms and lighting to some areas, and worsen drought conditions that now cover two-thirds of the western US. 

heat dome 2021

Source: NOAA

While climate scientists have said that the heatwaves are being fuelled by human activity and are effects of global climate change, some admit to being surprised at how severe they have been. 

Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says, “We certainly expected these types of temperatures as global warming continues but I don’t think anyone anticipated they would be so hot right now. I don’t think we could’ve expected so many heatwaves in the same general region in one summer.”

The most severe of the recent heatwaves occurred in the Pacific north-west in June, where the normally mild region was affected by an increase of temperature of more than 5.5C than previous records. The heat caused hundreds of deaths and has led several scientists to question their previous estimates how climate change will reshape the severity of future heatwaves. 

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