What is a Heat Dome?

Summer is the season for warm weather. So, when temperatures reach 5°F to 10°F above average, it can be excessively hot. When this type of weather lasts for multiple days, it is usually the result of a phenomenon known as a “heat dome”.

Although not an official meteorological term, it does help paint a picture of what is happening. To start, an area of high pressure develops under a ridge in the jet stream. Acting like a lid in the upper atmosphere, it forces warm air that would normally rise to sink back toward the surface. As it sinks, it compresses and warms even further. Unable to escape, the hot air is remains in place until the ridge breaks down or moves.

Heat domes are not rare events, but when they produce extended heat waves and poor air quality, they can pose serious dangers to human health.

A Heat Dome forms in the upper atmosphere. Credit: NOAA

A Heat Dome forms in the upper atmosphere. Credit: NOAA

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.