Early Heat Wave Strikes Pacific Northwest, Raising Wildfire Risk

May 16, 2023

How Heat Domes Work

Right now, a "heat dome" is over the northwest part of the US and Canada. It's making the weather very hot in places in both countries. It's also spreading wildfires in Alberta. 

Heat domes happen when the air pressure traps hot ocean air like a bowl turned upside down. Temperatures inside go up. This occurred in July 2021. The temperature reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland. 800 people died in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. 

This heat wave isn't as deadly, but it's still unusual. It might also be a warning for the rest of the US and Canada as we get closer to summer. Right now, the Northwest is seeing temperatures in the high 80s and 90s, not the usual 60s for May. The heat is worse there because not many people have air conditioners. 

Heat records were broken in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. In Canada, it was hotter in the town of Squamish on Sunday than it was in Las Vegas. It was 96 degrees.

The high temperatures are expected to last for the rest of the week. There might also be thunderstorms in some places. This could be dangerous. 

"You could have lightning strikes on vegetation that's drying out in the heat,” an AccuWeather expert told USA Today. “Some of the storms could provide heat relief but also pose a wildfire threat.” 

This might already be happening in Alberta. Firefighters there are trying to put out 90 fires. 20 of these fires are too big to control. 

An Alberta Emergency Management Agency director told Reuters that the situation is very dangerous. "The risk of new wildfires remains significant in much of the province."

Reflect: What can individuals and communities do to stay safe and minimize the impact of extreme weather events such as heat waves and wildfires?

Based on the details in both the article and the infographic, the reader can conclude that heat domes can increase the likelihood of _______. (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. hurricanes
b. thunderstorms
c. tornadoes
d. wildfires
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