As temperatures rise across the state, officials at the National Weather Service are improving the way they issue heat advisories.
“Historically in the West, hardly ever would you see an excessive heat warning unless you were in some really, really hot desert location in the southwest, but that didn’t mean that people didn’t die from heat stroke in locations like Utah” said Emily Esplin, a trainee fellow for the Climate Adaptation Science program at Utah State University.
Last summer she worked at the National Weather Service where she learned about new changes to the Heat Warning Statements System.
“If it gets hot enough in a dry area and it doesn’t cool down at night for people to get relief. That heat stress accumulates until the next day,” Esplin said.
As opposed to heat exposure, when heat stress accrues over time, individuals can develop more serious illnesses.
“The way I think of heat exposure, heat exposure itself is just somebody or an animal outside being exposed to heat, but heat stress is how that impacts your body,” Esplin said.
Symptoms for heat stress can include fatigue, dehydration and nausea, but if not alleviated can develop further into heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Esplin says the new heat warnings system is important for those planning to be outside.
“Last summer was Salt Lake’s hottest summer on record and they broke their daily record which was I believe 106 or 107 and thankfully they were experimenting with this new way of measuring extreme heat and they did put out a warning, but it was the first heat warning that Salt Lake had ever had,” Esplin said.
The publicly available tool displays a gridded map of the Western U.S. and uses a sliding color scale to represent different heat risks across the area.
The tool is particularly helpful for those in vulnerable age groups or with pre-existing health issues. Find access to the NWS Experimental HeatRisk tool here.