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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 13 July, 2021

  • 7 Min Read

US-Canada Heat Waves

While heatwaves are quite common during the summer months, the scorching heatwave hitting parts of western Canada and the US has been particularly devastating – with temperature records shattered and hundreds of people falling victim to the extreme heat.

  • Canada broke its temperature record for a third consecutive day: recording a whopping 49.6°C on 29 June in Lytton, a village northeast of Vancouver, in British Columbia.
  • The persistent heat over parts of western Canada and parts of the US has been caused by a heat dome stretching from California to the Arctic.
  • Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas, but there has been little respite for the inland regions.

What is a Heat Dome?

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that to understand what causes a heat dome, one should liken the Pacific ocean to a large swimming pool in which the heater is turned on.
  • Once the heater is on, the portions of the pool close to the heating jets will warm up faster and therefore, the temperature in that area will be higher. In the same way, the western Pacific ocean’s temperatures have increased in the past few decades and are relatively more than the temperature in the eastern Pacific.
  • This strong change in ocean temperature from the west to the east is what a team of scientists believe is the reason for the heat dome, which is when the atmosphere traps heat at the surface, which encourages the formation of a heat wave.
  • To compare, the reason that the planet Venus is the hottest in the Solar System is because its thick, dense cloud cover traps the heat at the surface, leading to temperatures as high as 471 degree Celsius.
  • The phenomenon causing the scorching heat is called a “heat dome.”
  • Hot air is trapped by high-pressure fronts, and as it is pushed back to the ground, it heats up even more.
  • The condition also prevents clouds from forming, allowing for more radiation from the sun to hit the ground.

Heat Wave:

  • A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that lasts for more than two days.
  • Heat waves typically occur between May and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
  • Heat waves can occur with or without high humidity and have the potential to cover a large area, “exposing a high number of people to hazardous heat.”

Effects of Heat Dome:

  • Those living without an air conditioner see the temperatures of their homes rising to unbearably high, leading to sudden fatalities.
  • The trapping of heat can also damage crops, dry out vegetation and result in droughts.
  • The sweltering heat wave will alsolead to rise in energy demand, especially electricity, leading to pushing up rates.
  • The heat domes can also act as fuel to wildfires,which destroys a lot of land area in the US every year.
  • Heat dome is more likely to form during La Niña years like 2021, when waters are cool in the eastern Pacific and warm in the western Pacific.

Is it all linked to climate change?

  • It’s challenging to link any one specific weather event with climate change, but over time the trend is showing longer-lasting, more intense heat.
  • Climate change certainly influences hot weather: It is making heat more extreme and such extreme heat will occur more frequently.
  • In Russia, cities as far north as the Arctic circle broke heat records this month.

Source: TH, AFP, BBC


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