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How the Heat Wave Started

• Brandon Keim via
 The recent, record-setting heat wave appears to have been triggered by a little-noticed patch of storm activity off the western coast of Central America.

Descriptions abound of the so-called heat dome, a zone of high atmospheric pressure that pushed warm air down over the central and eastern United States, then held it for a sweltering week.

But with the average evening news weather map ending at U.S. borders, the heat dome seemed to come from nowhere. Of course that’s not the case.

“Subsiding” — descending — “air over the United States is associated with the heat wave. Where is the air subsiding from? There has be upwards motion somewhere,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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