New Forecasting Tool Aims to Reduce Heat-Related Deaths

Two federal agencies launched a new, easy-to-use, color-coded heat warning system that combines meteorological and medical risk factors.

2 minute read

April 24, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon

Close-up of hand holding up wooden thermometer in front of blurred street

Aleksej / Adobe Stock

The National Weather Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new online heat risk system called the Heat Risk Dashboard, according to an Associated Press article in the Portland Press Herald. The new tool provides a simplified seven-day forecast that uses a color-coded rating system to indicate when temperatures could be a health risk.

Moving forward, magenta will signal the deadliest of the five heat threat categories, indicating rare, long-duration extreme heat with little to no overnight relief, while red will indicate temperatures that fall within the top 5 percent hottest for a specific date and location. Then comes orange (moderate risk), yellow (minor risk, mostly to the very young, old, sick, and pregnant), and green (little to no risk).

The move to a new rating system comes as extreme heat events become more frequent and intense because of climate change. According to a CDC press release, more than two-thirds of Americans were under heat alerts in 2023, and rates of emergency department visits for heat-related illness reached peak levels across several U.S. regions compared to previous years.

The tool was designed to be simple and easy for the public and medical practitioners to use. It could also be a valuable tool for local planners and other city departments when preparing for extreme heat events, which present a major public health threat that disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations and low-income communities, and communicating emergency response plans to community members.

Monday, April 22, 2024 in Associated Press via Portland Press Herald

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