WeatherWeather Science


Colorado is likely to see more heat advisories this summer

heat advisory June 17, 2022
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 13:28:54-04

On June 17, 2022, the National Weather Service in Boulder issued a heat advisory for only the 2nd time ever. The first time was in August of 2008.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo has never issued a heat advisory or an excessive heat warning.

The office in Grand Junction has issued heat advisories in 2017, 2020, and 2022. And Colorado's first-ever excessive heat warning was issued by the Grand Junction office in 2021.

Why are we seeing more heat alerts in Colorado?

The recent alerts by the Grand Junction NWS office were a result of a new tool that forecasters are implementing. It's called HeatRisk. It's an experimental product by the National Weather Service that rates heat risk from 0 (no risk) to 4 (very high risk), based on variables like temperature, sun angle, and UV index. It does not factor in humidity as the classic heat index does. For dry climates in the western US, humidity is not as important of a variable in gauging heat danger.

Paul Schlatter with the National Weather Service in Boulder says that the reason Colorado almost never sees heat alerts is that "the national threshold was based on heat index and nighttime temperatures. We would have never met that criteria."

The HeatRisk map, which you can explore yourself, has been slowly introduced to NWS offices in the western US, with the Boulder and Pueblo offices implementing it this year.

Shifting the focus

This new tool will improve communication of dangerous temperatures during peak afternoon hours, especially in the urban areas of Colorado.

Greg Heavener, with the NWS in Pueblo, says that the shift in focus will be "more impact-based instead of threshold-based."

This will allow meteorologists to step out of the criteria box and provide a better message to the public that even Colorado's dry heat can be dangerous.

Heavener continues, "it's going to be the impacts to daily lives, and people who are working outdoors. And how they will be affected by higher heat days."


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