90° is the new 80° – at least in Colorado Springs


Does it seem like it’s hotter than it used to be? A check of the numbers shows it is, at least when you compare how often it hits 90 or higher in Colorado Springs.

The last afternoon of meteorological summer (August 31) will likely bring the 36th day at or above 90° in Colorado Springs in 2021. That seemed like a high number so I did a little bit of digging early Tuesday morning.

Kathy Torgerson, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Pueblo, was kind enough to help me out with the detective work as she was finishing up an overnight forecast shift.

“For the 30-year period from 1991 to 2020, the average number of days at or above 90° in Colorado Springs each year is 23.3,” said Torgerson.

That means wrapping August up with three dozen days at or above 90° is significantly higher than recent average. However, a look into last century draws a more stunning picture of the summer heat. Torgerson says that over the period of official climate record in Colorado Springs, from 1896 to 2020, the average days at or above 90° each year is only 13.9.

Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public, shows that the average summer temperature in Colorado Springs has risen 2.3° since 1970. This number takes into account temperatures reported through all hours of the day during June, July, and August months.

The displayed trend line is based on a mathematical linear regression. Data is calculated using the 1981-2010 NOAA/NCEI reported temperatures.

Summer low temperatures have also warmed over the last five decades. Warm summer nights make it difficult for the body to recover from extreme daytime heat, especially in urban areas which cool down less at night. Summer heat can also contribute to stagnant air which traps harmful pollutants and leads to worsening air quality.

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