Heat Domes

“Trapped in ‘Heatdome’, Canada and US bakes under record-smashing hot weather”-

The Times of India, June 29, 2021

“Portland and Seattle amongst many grappling with 100F-plus days in a typically moderate climate.”-

The Guardian, June 29, 2021

“Climate in Crisis. Heat Dome in Northwest a warming for Bay Area.”

NBC, BAY AREA, July 1, 2021

“Nordic Countries endure heatwave as Lapland records hottest day since 1914.”

The Guardian, July 6, 2021

“New Zealand experiences hottest June on record despite polar blast.”

The Guardian, July 5 2021

“Millions in India’s northern states sizzle in a severe heatwave.”

Aljazeera, July 2, 2021

News headlines are information pieces that we all follow closely, and in the last couple of days, headlines like the above have been the talk of the town. Many nations have been under intense heat waves, with temperatures sizzling many degrees above the normal for many days at a stretch. Temperatures in some nations have been attributed to a new term that became a buzzword called “the heat-dome”, while in other nations, it is due to rising temperatures which is a byproduct of climate change.

So what a “heat dome”, is and how does it occur that leaves dozens dead and millions suffering? How does a heat dome form, and can the nations avoid such heat domes to occur? How can an individual, state, or nation protect itself during such harsh heat domes and what is the way forward?

As an environmental enthusiast, understanding the heat dome, its impacts became essential. Scientifically, heat dome has been defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US Department of Commerce as “a phenomenon that happens when strong, high-pressure atmospheric conditions combine with influences from LaNina (a climate pattern at the pacific), creating vast areas of sweltering heat that get trapped under the high-pressure dome.”

In simple terms, a heat-dome is a trap that completely blocks the clouds and storms and leads to exposure to intense heat rays from the sun. The hotter the temperatures, the stronger becomes the heat-dome.

It is highly well-known that human-induced climate change leads to more intense heatwaves that stay for a more extended time and occur very frequently. Additionally, it becomes increasingly clear that the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels leading to rising temperatures has made the occurrence of “heat dome” quite an “obvious” aftermath. However, many scientists still believe that a direct correlation between climate change and the occurrence of heat domes is yet to be established.

Heat dome can become extremely brutal and can cause severe damage to humans, flora and fauna. Extreme heat destroys crops and vegetation, leading to droughts and a significant cause for wildfires leaving the human race feeling the heat of high temperatures and almost zero water supply, thus, affecting the overall existence massively.

Apart from the above devastating impacts, heat domes act as dangerous for human health. Heatstroke is one of the significant concerns that a human being can suffer from and damage the brain, internal organs, muscles if not dealt with promptly. In addition to the above, people with chronic diseases and older people are highly vulnerable to such intense heat due to heat dome.

The global economy suffers hugely due to such heat domes due to reduced productivity and loss of crops and vegetation. According to International Labour Organization, globally, the developing countries are expected to lose nearly $4.2 trillion per year by 2030, thus, creating more inequality amongst developed and developing nations. A World Bank report (2018) explains that by 2050, nearly 600 million Indians could experience loss of living standards, which could cost 2.8% of the GDP, making the efforts to pull the people out of poverty futile.

Experts explain that the heat dome lasts for almost a week, but the impacts of such a heat dome leave a lasting impact on humans and the overall environment for a relatively long time. To reduce the overall impact on one’s health, one must take the course as per the advice. However, cooling systems must be installed at the national level and conduct a national drive for afforestation to avoid such heat domes.

Though the effects are extreme and harsh, nations must note such extreme heat domes and chart a plan of action to minimize its effects in the future. Well planned and meticulously implemented strategies can control the damage to some extent. It will be ideal if the nations collaborate and function to bring down the global GHG emissions, which is the root cause of such intense heat domes and the rising global temperatures. However, creating awareness about the intense heatwaves and preparing citizens by explaining the preparations would significantly minimize national levels. Further, to reduce the surface heat, a tree or vegetation cover could be created to shade and reduce the surface from heating. Creating public halls with cool roofs would also help bring people under one roof and avoid heat stress.

These are just some of the steps, and there can be various strategies to curb the heat dome. One of the significant steps is to curb global GHG emissions, which is the root cause of all such intense heat domes and adapt to more sustainable forms of energy that reduce global warming.

Concluding, it can be summarised that intense heat waves threaten public health and are needed to be dealt with carefully and swiftly unless global leaders reduce the overall GHG emissions by imposing stricter laws and policies on individuals and organizations. With the hot days becoming hotter and frequent, it is a matter of decades when such intense heat waves would be a regular phenomenon posing a threat to people, ecosystems and the global economy, and it will be a loss that will be irreplaceable.

It is upon us to start thinking about sustainable development and act upon it to reduce future disasters or else… “IT WILL BE TOO LATE.”

Image Source: NOAA

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