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Gary England On Heat Domes And The First Big Heat Wave Of Summer

Meteorologist Gary England.
Dick Pryor
Meteorologist Gary England.

Sweltering heat is encompassing central and eastern Oklahoma. A heat advisory is in effect until Saturday, July 22 at 8:00 p.m. Afternoon highs could reach as high as 100 degrees, and heat index values could make it feel like 105 to 108 in the afternoon and early evening hours.

KGOU’s Jacob McCleland spoke with Gary England, the University of Oklahoma’s consulting meteorologist-in-residence, about the heat wave and the beginning of the term “heat dome.”


McCleland: Gary England thank you so much for joining us.

England: My pleasure.

McCleland: Now Gary we've hit the hottest point of the summer so far. I've heard the phrase "heat dome" used to describe what we're going through right now. Is heat dome, is that a, is that a scientific, meteorological term? Because I don't remember hearing “heat dome” back a few years ago.

England: Well when you see the weather people on television talking about it, you hear a lot of new phrases. But it gradually crept in and I guess I don't how long ago but it's here now. I was know if it's really a truly scientific phrase because not necessarily a dome.

McCleland: It's not necessarily a dome then what, then what is it really?

England: It could have been a rectangle.

McCleland: A rectangle?

England: I'm kidding. Dome just presents its very uniform dome like a quonset hut over, you know, a little bit different than that. There's a lot going on there. It really what it is what should we be called, you have high pressure on the surface you have high pressure and upper level of the atmosphere over the air is coming down. Dry air warms up. It's hot.

England: Do you know when the term heat dome first started coming into use?

McCleland: I don't know. It could've been a few years ago. I just don't know. I never really used it.

McCleland: You didn't use heat dome when you were when you were on air?

England: No.

McCleland: What would you what would you say instead?

England: I would say hey we have high pressure area on the surface and it's dry and we have high pressure in upper levels of the atmosphere. That air is coming down and is going to be, gosh, it's going to be hot. I'm going to stay hot because air’s coming down, gets drier and drier drier, and we get the heat from the sun and all that stuff. So it's it's the high pressure which is the high pressure. We call it dome if you want.

McCleland: We're in a heat dome right now and we have been for a couple of days. Do you know when will this, when will we be getting out of the heat dome? That's always what we want to know is when we're going to be getting out of the triple digit temperatures.

England: Later. In reality, the high pressure area, or the heat dome, whichever you prefer, earlier it was out over the mountains of Utah and Arizona and Nevada all through there. And it has shifted to the east. It's over Oklahoma now. It will shift a little bit more. Some indication it may shift to the north when the big high pressure area it's over as it moves to the north. That puts us in a different upper air flow and surface low, cools things down. So we'll have a cooling coming up for long. Little bit, few degrees. And so I suspect as we move into August we'll have very similar weather, really blistering hot in a little tiny reprieve.

McCleland: So I think that we have some rain in the forecast leave starting on on Sunday to cool like he said. Relatively speaking to cool things down and might like it down into the mid 90s instead of the upper 90s or something like that. Is that kind of precipitation, typically, what will, what will break up a heat don't like this?

England: No. No. You you need to say you have a heat don't have high pressure area where you're extremely dry you need continuing precipitation or you need to change the upper levels. You need that north wind coming out in the five six seven eight nine 10 11 12 13 thousand feet above us coming from the northwest coming in Oklahoma that drags cold fronts in. And so you know you get in and fall the upper air pattern will change. It's all based on that upper air pattern.

McCleland: What is the hottest most intense summer that you that you remember here in Oklahoma?

England: You know I don't really remember but I remember it was I don't remember the number. I don't look at the stats anymore but July and August had so many 100 plus days is absolutely incredible. And I wish I could remember the year but it was it was tough. A lot worse than is. Right now temperature wise here in Oklahoma City we're just about normal temperature with this time of year, and really for July and August we usually hit about 94. So it's going to vary the hundreds down maybe occasionally in the 85 if there's a shower. So there has been some real nasty summers.

McCleland: We've been talking today with meteorologist Gary England. Gary thanks so much has been a pleasure. You bet.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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