Over the summer break, Washington, Oregon and California faced the effects of ocean air being trapped in the atmosphere, also known as a heat dome. The heat dome caused increasingly dangerous wildfires which spread through south California and south and southwest Oregon.
Some students at Oklahoma Christian University, such as Caleb Schrader, faced uncomfortable living conditions due to the fires. Schrader lived in Washington over the summer.
“We had one week this summer with temperatures between 98 and 113, with several days in a row over 110, whereas our normal summer temperatures are low to mid 90s,” Schrader said.
The West Coast has dealt with uncharacteristic temperatures surpassing the 100s, leaving citizens unequipped for the shift in climate.
“I think one of the biggest things is just the heat,” Schrader said. “It doesn’t really sound like a big deal, but in the same way Oklahoma is unprepared for snow and months of freezing weather, we aren’t well prepared for that type of heat.”
Junior Danica Hammack has seen the collateral damage from the wildfires while living in California.
“While we ourselves aren’t actually on fire, we see and feel a lot of the effects from the heat as the smoke and ash travel through the air,” Hammack said.
As smoke spreads across the West, places like Washington become hard for junior Chase Gardner.
“We usually just have smoke and the past few years it has been much worse,” Schrader said. “There have been a large number of times it has been recommended to stay inside due to dangerous levels of smoke.”
The wildfire in California is considered to be the second largest fire in state history, leading to guidelines for the state to adapt.
“The heat dome is a part of California’s environment,” Hammack said. “While we’ve tried to create and implement preventative measures over the years, there’s only so much we can do to stop natural heat.”
Coming back to campus at Oklahoma Christian meant students had to leave families without knowledge of the outcome of the situation.
“There have always been wildfires there but they seem to come much sooner now and for a much longer amount of time,” Schrader said.
There were expected climate changes with the rise of the summer months, but the conditions are becoming increasingly worse.
“Being surrounded by the mountains means all of the smoke from the fires settles into the valley without dissipating, causing many people problems because the air quality is so bad,” Hammack said.
The heat dome temperatures in the West can be compared to humid summer temperatures in Oklahoma.
“The wildfires keep getting worse and closer every year,” Hammack said. “I’m grateful that I’m here at school, but I still worry about my family and friends back home.”
The light of the heat dome alters the climate, forcing those affected by the wildfires to be adaptable. As wildfires continue to spread, the heat dome continues to grow, endangering lives and affecting Oklahoma Christian students from the West Coast.