Summer 2021 Could Alter Our Understanding of 'Extreme Heat'


| LAST UPDATE 10/17/2021

By Eliza Gray
Heatwave North America Record
PATRICK T. FALLON / Contributor via Getty Images

The heatwave that struck the United States throughout the month of June broke records and left scientists absolutely baffled. And if they can't explain it, we don't know who can! This summer in Seattle, Washington, temperatures reached 108°F - a full 9 degrees warmer than it has ever been in sunny Tampa, Florida.

Heatwave Summer 2021 Record
SOPA Images / Contributor via Getty Images

And, while Texas is widely known as a dry kind of hot state, Portland, Oregon surpassed Dallas's record of 116°F by 3 degrees. With this kind of record-setting heat throughout the country, scientists are scrambling to find what has been causing this sweltering weather pattern.

Summer 2021 Extreme Heat
MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images / Contributor via Getty Images

If this heatwave doesn't come into clarity soon, much of Northern America will remain in grave danger. Recently, Canada's village, Lytton, set a new heat record with temperatures reaching 121°F. If this wasn't enough, the following day, the entire community was nearly destroyed by a wildfire that sparked from nature itself.

Canada Wildfires Extreme Heat
PAYTON BRUNI / Contributor via Getty Images

Scientists based in the areas in which the wildfires sparked reported almost 500 "Sudden and unexpected deaths" that occurred during the time of the heatwave. On top of this extremely unfortunate news, several Northern hospitals reported seeing about 3,000 heat-related visits between June 25-30.

Unites States Heatwave Summer
Sergei Savostyanov / Contributor via Getty Images

Now more than ever, researchers are scrambling to find answers. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, extreme weather and climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, admitted, "We thought we understood heatwaves reasonably well. This shows that our understanding is lacking." Thus, more work has to be done, fast.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Some professionals believe a heat dome is to blame for the brutal weather pattern - but what is a "Heat dome"? Well, when it forms, sunshine beams, causing hot air to rise until it reaches high air pressure that then forces it back to the ground. As the air travelers downward, it compresses and reheats.

Heat Dome Record Temperatures
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Contributor via Getty Images

Enter: the unbearable heat we feel. "I don't think anybody believed it could get so hot," said extreme weather researcher Michael Wehner. So while scientists continue to search for answers, they have encouraged us to stay hydrated, seek shade when possible, and hang in there as we all ride out this heatwave of the century.