Pacific Northwest records record heat

Katie Keller, Opinion Editor

The summer of 2021 has so far been one to remember.

The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued an extreme heat warning for the Pacific Northwest as the area experiences record heat. Relative humidity is predicted to be as low as 17 percent and temperatures have fallen between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

But what causes a heat wave?

Behind the PNW’s current heat wave is a “heat dome” that has settled over the area, according to meteorologists.

“A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping,” says the National Weather Service. “The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way.”

What’s worse about heat domes: they’re self-perpetuating. That means that as the temperatures increase, so does the dome’s impenetrability. The dome, which is often stationary, prevents clouds and storms from forming, creating multiple days of hot weather.

With temperatures soaring and many people not having access to reliable air conditioning at home, it may seem impossible to cool off without the help of cold water. But before you go take a cold shower, here are some other methods you can use to stay cool.

Stay hydrated. Hydration is the first and foremost step to cooling your body. If room-temperature water sounds unpleasant, keep in mind that the temperature of the water doesn’t matter–your body will heat it anyway. The human body’s primary way to cool itself is by sweating, but it can’t perform that function without enough moisture.

Use cold washrags on your neck or your wrists. Draping a cold washrag on your wrists or draping it around your neck is another way to cool your body off. Blood vessels are closer to the skin in these spots, so you’ll cool down quicker.

Close the curtains or blinds. Closing your curtains or blinds on windows that face the sun can keep the heat from entering your house and heating up the inside.

Keep clothing and blankets out of the fridge. Plenty of us have heard that refrigerating or freezing wet socks, blankets or clothing and then wringing them out before bed can help keep you cool. However, after your body heats them up in a matter of minutes, you’ll be hot and wet. What’s worse, warmth and moisture are a great recipe for mold. Your mattress is the last place you’ll want mold to grow in.

Close off unused rooms. Closing the doors of rooms nobody’s using helps keep the cool air only in occupied areas of your house.

Don’t turn the oven on. Oven heat will quickly spread throughout the house. Keeping the heat in a centralized area–such as a slow cooker–or cooking outside is an easy way to enjoy some delicious dinner without turning your house into a dry sauna.