Over the weekend, temperatures soared beyond 30 degrees Celsius in certain regions of British Columbia. During that particular year, temperature records were shattered throughout the province, and the extreme heat led to the unfortunate loss of numerous lives.
To better comprehend this phenomenon, it is worth delving into the intricate workings of the high-pressure system, which effectively ensnares elevated temperatures close to the Earth’s surface. As heat ascends and subsequently descends, resembling the mechanism of a convection oven, there may lie an explanation waiting to be explored.
What is a Heat Dome?
During a heat wave, the experience can be akin to feeling trapped amidst rising temperatures from every direction. This phenomenon is often referred to as a “heat dome.” The term “heat dome” is used to depict a situation where high atmospheric pressure forms a metaphorical “lid,” preventing hot air from escaping and effectively confining it at the Earth’s surface.
To illustrate this concept, Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips compared it to placing a dome or lid on a frying pan. The sun’s heat enters this enclosed space, intensifying the temperatures on the ground, causing the air to rise. However, due to the lid’s suppressive or compressive effect on the air, it descends to the ground and further warms up, resulting in furnace-like conditions.
These heat waves, characterized by the presence of a heat dome, persist throughout the day and prove challenging to escape. Although “heat dome” is not an official meteorological term, Peter Kimball, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada, explained that it has been used in recent years to describe exceptionally intense heat waves.
Essentially, a “heat dome” occurs when the temperature remains stagnant or exhibits minimal variation, trapping the heat without the influx of cooler air. This absence of airflow allows high temperatures to endure for extended periods, lasting several days.
Caution Out West
The high temperatures expected in British Columbia will not be confined in the same manner. Importantly, there will be relief as the temperatures cool overnight, facilitated by the longer nights typical of this time of year compared to June. This natural cooling process is anticipated to provide respite from the scorching conditions.
Nevertheless, meteorologists and officials responsible for emergency preparedness continue to emphasize the importance of exercising caution. During this period of the year, most individuals are not yet acclimated to the heat. It is vital to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions.
Certain demographics are particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat. These include the elderly, pregnant individuals, infants and young children, and those with pre-existing health conditions. such as diabetes. Extra care should be taken to ensure their well-being during this period of heightened temperatures.