A heatwave has hit the United States recently and cities, like Salem in Oregon, are reeling under it. On July 1, 2021, the temperature in the city was recorded as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius approx.). This has never happened before. The National Weather Service raised an alarm, warning residents of Oregon and Washington of another heatwave that last for almost a week. Things wouldn’t be brighter for those who stay in the Northeast of the U.S., including Philadelphia and Boston. What causes these heatwaves, when will the current one end, and what precautions should people take for any power outage? All of these worries have been discussed below.
The Cause of Heatwaves
As per the National Weather Service, a hot spell can only be tagged as a heatwave if people in most parts of the United States experience temperatures that are above the historical average for a period of at least two days. However, the definition of a heatwave varies from one region to another. For instance, if you speak of the North-eastern part of the country, the temperatures should be in the 90s or above for three straight days for it to be labeled as a heatwave.
Coming to how these heat waves occur, they usually begin when high pressure in the atmosphere takes place of the warm air by pushing it downwards. Owing to compression, the warm air gets warmer and temperatures rise. The high-pressure tends to undergo vertical expansion which forces other weather systems to alter their course. As a result, the normal movement of the wind is restricted and the cloud cover is minimized, the reason you feel suffocated and an area experiences heatwaves for several days in a row.
A Heat Dome
Due to the warm air cover above, the ground warms up and loses moisture, leading to a further increase in its temperature. It’s a known fact that the West is heavily affected by drought. Therefore, the high-pressure system has ample heat to trap. This pot of trapped heat gets warmer while the high-pressure system acts as a lid. This is why it’s termed a heat dome.
Which North American Cities are Reeling Under the Heat Wave?
Salem, Oregon was among the cities of North America which recorded an unprecedented temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Portland International Airport recorded a temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday while on Monday it rose to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Record-keeping was introduced back in 1940 and ever since then, nothing identical has been experienced to date.
The weather system in the North-east and the North-west is different. The hot spell of three days in the northeast is expected to get over by Thursday. The National Weather Service revealed that Boston has equaled its previous record of 97 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday. As far as the Pacific Northwest is concerned, the heat and the drought act in tandem with each other, thus aggravating the issue.
The heatwave has not only affected the United States, but Canada has also had its fair share of it. A small town in the state of British Columbia witnessed temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday. It became a national heat record after surpassing the previous record, almost 84 years old, by almost 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
When Will This End?
As per the forecasts, the Pacific Northwest is going to face a hot week. Though temperatures have come down quite a bit in Portland, they can rise to the mid-80s in the upcoming week as per Portland’s National Weather Service. Till coming Tuesday, temperatures are expected to hover 10 to 20 degrees above the average temperature.
What About Power Outages?
Residents in Seattle have been buying air-conditioning units to beat this heatwave. While the Pacific Northwest hasn’t yet faced any major power outage till now, it can’t be overlooked is the increasing energy demand. The cooling and dehumidifying of offices and other buildings will put extra load on the electrical grid. This can lead to power outages if the supply and demand mismatch widens. You can do your bit by reducing, or even stopping, the use of washing machines, ovens, dryers, and other large electrical appliances. Also, make sure to switch off the lights and other electronic devices when they are not in use. The Energy Department advises people to go for colder showers as water heating takes up almost 17% to 18% of the total energy you use daily at home.
The heatwave is real and can lead to a multitude of problems. It is only wise to timely take the necessary steps if we wish to beat it.