It's a Scorcher Outside

The heat wave continues to grip the U.S.

July 20, 2011

A young girl tries to stay cool as temperatures continue to rise across the U.S.

The heat wave that has been sweeping the central United States is showing no signs of stopping. As of Monday, the U.S. has broken 25 local high records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While the heat "dome" has been centralized in the northern Plain states down to Texas, it will soon be moving eastward. The extreme heat and humidity is making it difficult for Americans to do just about anything. "It's hot no matter what you're doing or where you are," said St. Louis construction worker Tim Prader. "When you're done for the day, you're ready to eat, drink and hit the couch."


Stuck in the Middle

Forecasters are referring to this concentrated heat as a "heat dome." A wide area of high pressure that traps hot, moist air beneath it causes the dome. These are common occurrences in nature, but this one is especially unusual because of its massive size. Also, because it's summertime and the sun is already at a higher angle, it is getting especially hot and lasting for long periods of time.

"This is really an exceptional event, I think it's fair to say . . . in terms of scope and duration," said Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The only relief the heat dome provides comes from what meteorologist Kevin Birk calls the "ring of fire." This is the outer edge of the dome where thunderstorms can develop, providing temporary cooling. But this dome is so large that the heat rebuilds quickly, said Birk.


Playing it Cool

While the home of the dome may be far away from you, it's important for everyone to keep cool during these summer months. Here are a few tips to stay safe in the sun:

• Always wear sunscreen. Reapply every couple hours, especially when swimming or sweating.

• Be mindful of time spent outside during peak hours. The sun is the strongest during the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.

• Wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat to protect your eyes from the sun.

• Hydrate! Drink plenty of water, even before you're thirsty. Dehydration is the cause of many heat related illnesses like heat stroke and exhaustion.

• Take a break! While the long days of summer provide lots of time for fun in the sun, be sure to give yourself a rest from the heat and UV rays.


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