Tracking extreme heat in Colorado in 2023 as more record highs are forecast
(Colorado Newsline) Another heat wave is gripping the Denver area this week after a summer full of record high temperatures in many parts of Colorado.
Temperatures near Denver are expected to reach 98 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, topping the daily record of 97 degrees, set in 2007. Red flag conditions due to heat and high winds were also in effect for the area on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s Denver-Boulder office.
“Very warm and mostly dry weather will continue through the middle of the week,” NWS forecasters wrote in a hazardous weather advisory. “In addition to the heat and dry conditions, it will be breezy at times which may produce near critical fire weather conditions.”
July was the hottest month in recorded history, exceeding the previous July record by nearly half a degree, scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said last week. Exceptional heat waves have been experienced across the northern hemisphere in recent weeks, helping to fuel unprecedented wildfires in northern Canada and a historic hurricane that on Sunday was bearing down on southern California, among other impacts around the world.
In Colorado, July was a tale of two halves of the state, according to a monthly summary from the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. While the Front Range urban corridor and the Eastern Plains recorded only average heat, much of the Western Slope was far hotter than normal, with some places experiencing record-warmest average temperatures.
Statewide average temperatures in July were more than two degrees Fahrenheit above their 1901–2000 average, the center’s report said.
Climatologists say 2023’s extreme heat is the product of a long-term warming trend caused by climate change and a strong El Niño pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean.
Grand Junction experienced Colorado’s hottest recorded temperature this year, a 107 degree mark on July 17. That tied the city’s all-time high, set in 2021, and broke the previous daily record, set in 2010, by three degrees.
Western Colorado has been hit especially hard by human-caused climate change, with average temperatures now four degrees Fahrenheit or more above pre-industrial levels. The increased heat is a major contributor to a long-term drying trend in the Colorado River Basin, which is expected to continue to worsen despite a reprieve brought on by a wet winter and spring this year.
More than 350 daily maximum temperature records have been broken at weather stations across Colorado so far this year, with 165 other daily records tied, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. A majority of that extreme heat came in July, when 282 record highs were broken or tied, though unseasonably warm weather in April also saw nearly 150 records broken along the Front Range and Eastern Plains, many of which were surpassed by five degrees or more.
“In every corner of the country, Americans are right now experiencing firsthand the effects of the climate crisis,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement last week. “The science is clear. We must act now to protect our communities and planet; it’s the only one we have.”