A massive “heat dome” is heading for the U.S. that will bake much of the country to potentially record-breaking temperatures next week, the Washington Post reports.
Only the Pacific Northwest is expected to escape the heat wave, while the rest of the country can look forward to some of its “hottest weather with respect to normal,” the Post‘s weather editor Jason Samenow writes.
Although it is too early to know exactly how hot it will get, temperatures in the central U.S. and Upper Midwest could reach 10 to 20 degrees above average. Highs in Des Moines, Iowa, for example, may surpass 100°F for three days straight.
According to Atlas Obscura, heat domes are a “meteorological phenomenon” that occur when “a high-pressure system forms in the mid- to upper-atmosphere; the air pressure pushes warm air down towards the surface and traps it there, resulting in higher—often much higher—than normal temperatures.”
The phrase came into popular use around 2011, although Oklahoma-based meteorologist Gary England told the New York Times that the title was “a little bit misleading” and that the phenomenon would be more accurately described as a “heat bubble.”
Bubble or dome, it’s coming. As Mashable‘s science editor Andrew Freedman points out, “Both the European and GFS models, among others, are depicting the height of the 500 millibar pressure surface, which is normally located around 5,000 meters, or 18,000 feet, to be at or above 6,000 meters, or 19,685 feet.
There are other concerns. Freedman writes:
Another hazard may also be found along the northern fringe of the heat dome, from southern Canada across the northern Great Lakes states and into New England. Atmospheric disturbances tend to ripple across the outer edges of such weather patterns, triggering large complexes of severe thunderstorms.
[….] One of the most confident conclusions in climate science is that heat waves are becoming more intense and more common as the world warms in response to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air.
The heat wave comes as global temperatures continue to break previous records. In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual State of the Climate report which found that April 2016 marked the 12th consecutive warmest month on record.
And as Atlas Obscura warns, “As with many other extreme weather events around the world, climate change may be making heat domes more common than ever.”
Arctic Alaska records highest temperature ever
The maximum daily temperature in Deadhorse, Far North Alaska reached 29.4 °C (85 °F) on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. This is the highest temperature ever known to be recorded in that area, NWS Fairbanks said. Although high temperatures were recorded across a wide region of Alaska, a sharp temperature drop is now underway.
On Wednesday, July 13, Deadhorse saw state’s highest temperature ever measured within 80 km (50 miles) of the Arctic. Fairbanks recorded 31.1 °C (88 °F) on the same day, the highest since 2009. Bettles and Eagle also saw 29.4 °C (the same as the New York City) while Fort Yukon reached 28.9 °C (84 °F).
On Thursday, July 14, Fairbanks hit 31.1 °C for the second day in a row while Fort Wainwright measured 31.7 °C (89 °F).
The high temp on Wed in Deadhorse, AK (on the Arctic Coast) was 85°F. This is the highest temp ever known to be recorded in that area.
— NWS Fairbanks (@NWSFairbanks) July 14, 2016
The high temperatures were caused by a very strong upper level ridge parked over northern Alaska. “It’s not that unusual, but this could be our warmest weather of the summer,” said NWS meteorologist Rick Thoman.
“It could get warmer later in the month, but after early August that is unlikely.”
So far in 2016, the state’s average temperature is -0.88 °C (30.4 °F), some 5 °C (9 °F) higher than normal, Dole Rice of the USA Today writes. The all-time record high temperature in Alaska is 37.8 °C (100 °F), set on June 27, 1915, in Fort Yukon.
A sharp temperature drop is expected by the weekend and during the next week as Arctic front sweeps over the region. Temperatures could drop as much as 11.1 °C (20 °F) below normal, the weather service said.
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