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What is a heat dome? Why the Pacific Northwest is seeing all-time high temps

The region is seeing previously once-in-a-millennium highs that may soon become the new normal thanks to climate change.

What is a heat dome? Why the Pacific Northwest is seeing all-time high temps
[Photo: iStock]

The Pacific Northwest will continue to be boiling over the next few days with cities in the region seeing all-time record highs, reports CBS News. On Saturday, Portland, Oregon, reached 112ºF while Seattle easily broke 100ºF and Redding, California, hit 113º F.

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Temperatures are expected to continue to stay in record-high zones for Monday and Tuesday as well, with experts calling the heatwave a once-in-a-millennium event. But just what is causing these record highs? A phenomenon known as a heat dome.

According to National Geographic, a heat dome is an area of high pressure over a region that has bubbled up from the normal pattern of the jet stream. The heat dome wraps upwards from the jet stream, curves around an area, and then wraps back down, rejoining the stream—and thus giving it an omega (Ω) shape. The high pressure essentially puts a lid on the omega, creating a dome that keeps everything in the affected area boiling hot.

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Is the current heat dome due to global warming? With the region seeing once-in-a-millennium highs, it’s reasonable to assume so. It will be a little while before scientists can say for sure, but many have already theorized that the jet stream omega warping could be due to the increasing temperatures in the arctic.

That’s bad news for us. Because if arctic warming is causing the current heat dome, we can expect to see these events becoming common in the years ahead as fossil fuels continue to heat the earth’s climate.

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About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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