Record high temperatures in southern California on Friday overwhelmed the power grid and left over a million residents sweating it out in the dark. In fact, record high temperatures were recorded all over the planet last week due to massive “heat domes.” Over 50 people died from the heat in North America alone. For climate scientists, it was no surprise.
A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere prevents hot air from escaping. The air sinks down to the surface, warming even more and creating dangerously hot temperatures. This high pressure also tends to push the jet stream further north, brining warmer, drier air with it. Scientists measure heat domes based on their “geopotential height.” In simpler terms, it’s a measurement of how high in the atmosphere the pressure reaches 500 millibars. Higher up means hotter temperatures, with 6,000 meters being an extreme event.
Friday’s heat dome was near or above the 6,000m threshold in many areas of the United States and set over 200 record high temperatures. These extreme events are becoming more and more common, with the majority of them having happened in the last 30 years.
Much of southern California saw record high temperatures in the range of 110-120 degrees, with not much cooling during the night. Air conditioners were running full blast around the clock, which led to another record – electric demands. With the power grid unable to keep up, about 1.5 million customers were effected by power outages.
Ironically, the hotter it gets, the more more electricity we need to run our air conditioners. If that energy is coming from fossil fuel power plants, we’re only making the problem worse.
…and Trump just put a 30% tarriff on solar panels. Go America?