Publication Date August 3, 2016

Heat domes? From heat domes to rain bombs, climate change is changing how we talk about weather

Central US
Photo: Grist, stock

Let’s face it: We actually like talking about the weather. Whether we’re languishing in record-breaking heat or bundling up to face a cold snap, we bond over whatever misery the skies throw at us. And the list of meteorological marvels we encounter just keeps on growing.

The relationship between climate and weather is complex, but we do know that our changing climate is causing extreme weather events to crop up more often — and to describe these anomalies, we’ve coined some new words and dusted off a few obscure phrases. Here’s a guide to some of the terms we’ve been chattering about.


Heat dome

For two weeks, the United States has been engulfed in a “heat dome”:  a huge, high-pressure system that traps in hot air and roasts whatever’s beneath. The media can’t quit talking about it, even once the heat dome finally began to let up.

Though NOAA has embraced the term, not all meteorologists are down with the new “dome” terminology. Heat domes have come up before — the term first rose in popularity in 2011, and came back last year when a scorcher hit the Middle East — but this is the first time it’s been elevated to a normal topic of conversation