Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, causing hundreds of fatalities each year. The National Weather Service is forecasting heat risks to help reduce the number of weather related deaths nationally, including Utah.
To help Utah residents prepare for upcoming heat events, the National Weather Service is making available a heat risk forecast. The new service provides daily guidance on potential heat risks.
“We are using climatology in coordination with our temperature forecast to assess the heat risk on a scale of 0-4, and we've also got a color table, green, yellow, orange and red.” said Monica Traphagan, a meteorologist with the Salt Lake National Weather Service office. “When we get those days that are orange, red and magenta, which are the higher end of the scale, now we will be issuing excessive heat watching and excessive heat warnings and heat advisories.”
On average, heat is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined. When comparing data with emergency room visits in Salt Lake County and high temperature days, Traphagan says there is an obvious rise in emergency room visits for heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“We do get hot weather here and it’s getting hotter” Traphagan said. “We’re getting more and more days where the overnight low stays higher and higher. There’s more moisture to it, it’s not as dry heated as it was.”
Traphagan said people underestimate the risks of heat. This is a concern for the Weather Service and National Parks as tourists from around the world may not be acclimated to Utah’s warm temperatures.
To spread awareness about the dangers of excessive heat and to prepare Utahns for significant heat events, the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City has made the HeatRisk output forecast available online and through popular social media outlets. Forecasters prepare heat safety information by reviewing normal high and low temperatures, the expected duration of the excessive heat and the impact of relative humidity.