Southern Colorado metro areas susceptible to higher temperatures and more heat advisories

Children dressed in colorful shorts and bathing suites play in fountain sprays at the state fairgrounds in Pueblo, colorado. The area under the fountain is painted blue. There are brightly colored canopies for booths in the background
Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Children play in the fountain during a hot day at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo.

It's officially summer as of last week, so it may not be surprising to see heat advisories roll in. The National Weather Service issued advisories Monday for El Paso and Pueblo counties, as well as eastern Fremont County.

By Tuesday, Pueblo and Cañon City broke into triple digits, over 10 degrees higher than their average June temperatures, and heat advisories extended through the Lower Arkansas River Valley. Temperatures in La Junta climbed to 100 degrees and Trinidad saw similar conditions to Colorado Springs. Lamar reached 105. 

Though temperatures in the Lower Arkansas River Valley were generally higher than the Front Range on both days, the Weather Service waited until Tuesday to warn the southeast corner of the state.

Eric Petersen is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo. He said the delay was partly due to higher average temperatures in the Lower Arkansas River Valley.

“They’re several degrees hotter than say Pueblo or Colorado Springs, so the threshold for them is a little bit higher for a heat advisory,” he said. 

But it also comes down to something called the Heat Island Effect. 

“We have a lot of pavement. We have a lot of concrete. We have a lot of asphalt surfaces. We have a lot of buildings,” said Petersen. “Those surfaces absorb the sunlight and then reflect the heat out.” 

Ambient air temperatures above the street can far exceed the day’s forecasted high. According to the National Integrated Heat Health Information System, urban areas may experience mid-afternoon temperatures 15 to 20 degrees higher than surrounding vegetated areas. 

Temperatures may be higher in areas like La Junta and Lamar, but open green space moderates the intensity of the heat. 

Petersen said Southern Colorado metro areas can look forward to higher summer temperatures as populations and urban development increase. He expects around seven to 10 heat advisories this summer, but he cautions that temperatures are variable:

“Some years we haven’t issued any, some years we might issue more than 10. It just depends on how the climatology sets up for the summer,” he said.

The National Weather Service recommends the following safety measures to protect your health in the event of a heat advisory: 

  • Minimize exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Drink water (not very cold).
  • Seek air conditioned areas like malls and libraries.
  • If you have to be outside, stay in the shade.
  • Do not direct electric fans at yourself when the room temperature is above 90 degrees. The dry air will dehydrate you faster.