Breaking down the new heat warnings

Posted: Updated:
Concerns are being raised over the National Weather Service's heat warnings map. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Concerns are being raised over the National Weather Service's heat warnings map. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Heat warnings are fairly new with the National Weather Service. It isn’t one of those weather items that folks paid much attention to unless it’s, say, 105 in Chicago or Los Angeles. We, in the Arizona deserts, get that kind of heat regularly for six months of the year. We know it’s going to be hot so what’s up with the heat warnings? I’m asked that a lot.

Heat can be a killer. It contributes to more “weather-related” deaths in Arizona each year than every other weather-related category combined. Rightly so, the National Weather Service in Phoenix has been issuing heat watches and excessive heat warnings for the past several years. Each year, they are getting better at it. And it should be noted that much of the emphasis on issuing the watches and warnings is to alert public service agencies, government and volunteers that excessive heat is coming. Those groups, in turn, activate their protocols in oppressive heat scenarios.

[RELATED: Stay cool: Phoenix summer gears up with excess heat warning]

But are we trying to be too fine? For Monday, June 4, an excessive heat warning was issued for Phoenix. Here’s the map. The area in red is the “warned” area and comes directly from the NWS Phoenix office.

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here for map of excessive heat warning for Phoenix area]

Now, in quite technical terms, if you’re on the west side of 44th Street in Phoenix you’d be in the heat warned area. Across the street, no worries. The same can be said for the Loop 202 Red Mountain in the East Valley, you can just drive out of the warned area.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog]

Here’s the NWS “Experimental” National Heat Risk product that the local Phoenix NWS uses as guidance for their heat alerts. The “risk” areas are in red and purple and, frankly, it isn’t a big area but does include parts of metro Phoenix. Remember, this is guidance for the forecasters, not the forecast necessarily.

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here for map of NWS “Experimental” National Heat Risk map]

So for June 4, forecasters would tell you that even with an “official” NWS forecast of 110 for Phoenix, the heat warnings were marginal at best. They could have kept their fingers off the warning trigger, as they did at the NWS in Tucson.  

[RELATED: Phoenix hits 110 degrees for first time in 2018]

Heat deaths can occur at any time of the year and people need to know when it’s especially risky. However, I would prefer going “all-in” for metro Phoenix, or not issuing the warning at all. Dividing the Valley up into heat slices is confusing at best. What works great for a dust storm warning or severe thunderstorm warning is not as productive for the longer term heat warning.

[RELATED: Hydrate Arizona: Heat-relief for at-risk Arizonans]

What do you think? I’m concerned Excessive Heat Warnings, if used too often, will become just another item falling from the media sky.
To check out the NWS Heat Risk map, head to their website at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/wrh/heat risk/.

[WEATHER INFO: Weather home | Hourly forecast | 7-day forecast | Interactive map | Rainfall totalsWeather alerts | Cameras around AZ]

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • The 5 best things about the Arizona monsoon

    The 5 best things about the Arizona monsoon

    Thursday, June 14 2018 4:10 PM EDT2018-06-14 20:10:51 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Five Best Things About the Monsoon  It's that time of the year again! The Arizona Monsoon starts Friday and boy are we excited. Here are the top five best things about the monsoon in Arizona.  

    More >

    Five Best Things About the Monsoon  It's that time of the year again! The Arizona Monsoon starts Friday and boy are we excited. Here are the top five best things about the monsoon in Arizona.  

    More >
  • Get excited! Monsoon hints rumbling to our south

    Get excited! Monsoon hints rumbling to our south

    Wednesday, June 6 2018 5:17 PM EDT2018-06-06 21:17:38 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    This week, storms started to fire over the Sierra Madre, the mountain range on the western side of the Mexican plateau. 

    More >

    This week, storms started to fire over the Sierra Madre, the mountain range on the western side of the Mexican plateau. 

    More >
  • Heat Warnings: What you need to know

    Heat Warnings: What you need to know

    Tuesday, June 5 2018 7:24 PM EDT2018-06-05 23:24:25 GMT

    Arizona's notorious summer heat has arrived. We hit 110 degrees for the first time this year earlier this week, and more toasty temps are in the forecast.

    More >

    Arizona's notorious summer heat has arrived. We hit 110 degrees for the first time this year earlier this week, and more toasty temps are in the forecast.  

    More >