News & Politics

Potentially Record-Breaking Heat Is Coming to DC

A "heat dome" will linger. It will be very hot this weekend.

Photograph by Getty Images.

By now you’ve probably heard that it’s going to be hot in the DC region. Very hot. In fact, DC could possibly break temperature records this week.

This Sunday’s forecasted 99-degree high would top the 98-degree record for June 23, set in 1988. The city has issued an extended heat emergency advisory lasting through Friday, though that seems likely to be extended.

Friday and Saturday will also flirt with temperature records. Friday’s forecast of 98 degrees is just shy of the 2012 record of 99 for that day, and Saturday’s 100 degree forecast nears the 101-degree record from 1988.

“Today and tomorrow are going to be slightly above normal and humid, but we won’t necessarily have the criteria for breaking records,” Austin Mansfield, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told us on Monday. “There’s a lull on Wednesday and Thursday before picking back up on Friday.”

The heat right now isn’t just a heat wave—it’s what’s known as a “heat dome.” While a heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures, a heat dome is a colloquial term, according to the American Meteorological Association, for “an exceptionally hot air mass that develops when high pressure aloft prevents warm air below from rising, thus trapping the warm air as if it were in a dome.” It’s as if someone put a giant lid on DC, creating pressure that traps the hot air.

The National Weather Service doesn’t use the term, but it’s gained media prominence in recent years as climate change has brought attention to rising temperatures. Mansfield opted to describe the phenomenon hitting DC this week as “high pressure overhead that helps keep the heat around, that doesn’t really disperse it. This drums up normal temperatures well above normal.”

To stay safe out there, experts say to drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids, and to stay indoors in air-conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have access to air-conditioning, you can find a cooling center to beat the heat. If you do venture outside, the DC area is home to many a public pool and splash park.

This post has been edited since it was originally published.

Josie Reich
Editorial Fellow