Science

Why is the Pacific Northwest Experiencing a Heatwave?


TL;DR (3-minute read)

  • There is an unprecedented heat wave shattering single-day temperature highs throughout the Pacific Northwest of the US and British Columbia, Canada. 
  • The heatwave resulted in a “heat dome” trapping the Pacific Northwest region under hot air. The effects of climate change also have a part to play in the extreme temperatures and humidity.
  • The heatwave is causing many cases of heat illness, and the lack of air-conditioning in the Pacific Northwest is amplifying the effects of the heatwave and heat-illness. 

Key Questions to Consider:

  1. What is the status of the Pacific Northwest Heatwave?
  2. Why is the Pacific Northwest experiencing a heatwave?
  3. How dangerous is this Heatwave?

1: What is the status of the Pacific Northwest Heatwave?

In the Pacific Northwest an average day in June would be 70 degrees with a light breeze and the sun illuminating the atmosphere, however, this year in June the weather in the Pacific Northwest has been catastrophically different. In Oregon, Washington, and even Southwest Canada temperatures have been soaring past triple digits, while breaking single-day temperature high records daily. Furthermore, in Portland, Oregon the temperature reached a high of 112 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the record by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and in British Columbia, Canada the temperature reached a high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit, recording Canada’s highest ever temperature. With heat warnings becoming a common notification for the citizens of the Pacific Northwest, this unprecedented heatwave is shattering temperature records and the worst may not be over.

2: Why is the Pacific Northwest experiencing a heatwave?

The blistering heat wave that is taking over the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Canada, is the result of a once in a thousand years “heat dome”. A heat dome is a container of hot air and high air pressure that acts as a lid of warmth over a region of the area. There is currently a heat dome over the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Canada, that is trapping hot air in this region, which is causing extreme humidity and heat. Overall, a combination of the heat dome and the higher temperatures from global warming and climate change effects are resulting in the extreme and unprecedented heatwave.

3: How dangerous is this Heatwave?

  The heatwave has been devastating in many different aspects. Many Pacific Northwest residents are suffering from heat-illness leading to cramps, rashes, heat-stroke, and even death. Since the Pacific Northwest doesn’t usually endure this type of weather, it ranks near the bottom in the US in the amount of air conditioning that they have. The lack of air conditioning is amplifying the effects of the heatwave and heat-illness. In addition, the heat wave is burning public transportation cables, which are making certain modes of transportation like trains and cable cars unsafe to ride. Fortunately, many cities and state leaders are using public places like stores, libraries, recreational centers, etc. as cooling centers with free air conditioning and fluids for hydration.

The summer heat is not usually viewed as something dangerous but more as something to have fun in. However, this heatwave is reminding us that the heat can be deadly. Before you go out in hot weather make sure to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and try to stay in the shade or near air conditioning.

Sources

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/us/heat-wave-seattle-portland.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heat-wave-dome-2021-seattle-portland-weather/

https://www.severe-weather.eu/global-weather/heat-dome-record-breaking-heatwave-pacific-northwest-canada-united-states-mk/

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/28/1010923130/the-pacific-northwest-has-limited-a-c-making-the-heat-wave-more-dangerous

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16425-heat-illness

https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/28/weather/heat-waves-climate-change/index.html

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: