Extreme-heat warnings are in effect for about 143 million Americans this week, due to a heat dome that is hovering over the Midwest, South and Southwest. This dangerous heat is already smashing temperature records dating back to at least 1950, according to weather trackers. The “searing August heat wave,” as the National Weather Service (NWS) put it, is expected to persist in at least 22 states until the end of the week, and “numerous” temperature and heat-index records are likely to be set.
The heat index calculates a “real feel” temperature that includes the effects of humidity. Dallas-Fort Worth, for instance, hit 106 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday when just measuring air temperature, not humidity, as the metro area entered a 40th straight day of temps above 100 degrees F. Down the road, Austin had endured 44 straight days of temperatures above 100 degrees F, crushing the old record of 27 days.
Texas wasn’t the only hot spot. The heat index neared 127 degrees F in parts of Oklahoma and as much as 134 degrees F in Lawrence, Kan. Very southern Texas found some temperature relief, although had to brace for dangerous winds, when Tropical Storm Harold came ashore early Tuesday, the first hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic season to make landfall. The August temperature streaks follow the hottest July on record. July accounted for record electricity usage in Texas, which operates its own electrical grid. High heat forecasts can be built into power-usage plans and Texas does typically have hot summers. But the strings of consecutive days of extreme temperatures put enormous stress on utilities and power lines, at the same time that air conditioning becomes critical to health and safety.
Heat domes defined A heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid over a certain area. It is associat …