After the heat wave that swept all US states, energy officials declared a "Level 1" emergency

After the heat wave that swept all US states, energy officials declared a "Level 1" emergency.

The year's first heat wave in the central and eastern United States has spread extreme temperatures and high humidity from Chicago to Boston.

What is happening?

Record heat spread from the Midwest and Ohio Valley regions to the mid-Atlantic and New England as a "heat dome" settled over the country's eastern half. According to the Chicago Tribune, the temperature in Chicago reached 97 degrees on June 17, breaking a daily record first set in 1887. The scorching heat spread eastward the next day.

This is not the first heat dome the United States has witnessed this year. Although it's still early summer, other heat domes have already been reported in the southern Plains and southwest desert.

A heat dome is a continuous ridge of high pressure that rests over an area for a long period, sometimes weeks, trapping heat and causing temperatures to soar to record levels. The air descends and is compressed under the high-pressure cascade, creating a bulging dome covering several cases.

The latest heat dome extended to New England, where the region's power grid operator declared a "Level 1" emergency when power demand surged as people tried to cope with oppressive heat and humidity—serving ISO New England Inc. More than 7 million customers are spread across six states.

Why are heat domes so important?

A heat dome can last several days and lead to a heat wave, bringing intense heat and humidity to the surface. The National Weather Service defines a heat wave as "a period of abnormally hot weather that generally lasts more than two days." Heat waves can cause various heat-related illnesses, including those that can kill in the worst cases.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 2,300 heat-related deaths last year, the highest total in 45 years of records.

Many scientists believe that deaths from heat are an undercount. A Texas A&M University study estimated nearly 11,000 heat-related deaths will be in 2023.

What is being done about the extreme heat generated by heat domes?

Our world is becoming warmer as heat-trapping gases accumulate in the atmosphere. This change in our climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. Heat waves put a strain on our health and our power grids. Reducing carbon pollution can help cool the planet.

Weatherizing our homes and switching to LED lights (emitting much less heat than incandescent bulbs) are just two examples of ways we can reduce toxic gases by changing how we use electricity while combating high temperatures in our homes.

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