A heat dome is a weather phenomenon that traps hot air under a high-pressure system, creating a dome-like effect. This can lead to dangerously high temperatures and humidity levels, especially in the central US, where a heat dome is expected to build over the next few days.
In this article, we will explain what a heat dome is, how it affects the environment and human health, and what you can do to stay cool and safe during this extreme heat event.
What is a Heat Dome and How Does It Form?
A heat dome is a term used to describe a large area of high pressure that prevents cooler air from moving in and pushes warm air downward. This creates a feedback loop that intensifies the heat and makes it last longer.
According to AccuWeather, a heat dome forms when “a strong ridge of high pressure aloft, or upper-level high pressure, develops over an area. The high pressure acts as a lid on the atmosphere, trapping heat at the surface and preventing it from escaping into space.”
The heat dome can also block rain and thunderstorms from forming, which can worsen drought conditions and increase the risk of wildfires.
How Does a Heat Dome Affect the Environment and Human Health?
A heat dome can have serious consequences for both the environment and human health. Some of the impacts include:
- Increased air pollution: The trapped hot air can increase the concentration of pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter, which can harm the respiratory system and aggravate asthma and allergies.
- Reduced water quality: High temperatures can cause algae blooms in lakes and rivers, which can reduce oxygen levels and affect aquatic life. The algae can also produce toxins that can contaminate drinking water sources and cause health problems for humans and animals.
- Increased energy demand: The increased use of air conditioners and fans can strain the power grid and lead to blackouts or brownouts. This can also increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change.
- Heat-related illnesses: High temperatures and humidity can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses, especially for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 600 people die from extreme heat every year in the US.
What Can You Do to Stay Cool and Safe During a Heat Dome?
To protect yourself and your loved ones from the effects of a heat dome, you should follow these tips:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks that can dehydrate you. You should also drink more water than usual if you are sweating or working outdoors.
- Stay indoors: Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you have to go outside, wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You should also seek shade whenever possible and avoid strenuous activities.
- Stay cool: Use air conditioning or fans to cool down your home or workplace. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, you can visit public places that do, such as libraries, malls, or cooling centers. You can also use wet towels, ice packs, or cold showers to lower your body temperature.
- Stay informed: Check the local weather forecast and heat advisories regularly. You should also know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, fainting, rapid pulse, or hot and dry skin. If you or someone else shows these signs, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Stay connected: Check on your family members, friends, neighbors, and pets who may be at risk of heat-related illnesses. You should also have an emergency plan in case of power outages or other emergencies.
A heat dome is a serious weather phenomenon that can pose significant threats to the environment and human health. By following these tips, you can stay cool and safe during this extreme heat event. Remember to take care of yourself and others during this challenging time.