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More Heat Waves in Fort Collins

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the City of Fort Collins released in January 2014 a report, Extreme Heat in Fort Collins, documenting recent increases in hot days and heat waves and projecting their future levels. Annual rates of both single days 95 degrees or hotter and three straight days of 90 degrees or hotter have tripled so far this century, compared to 1961-1999 rates. In the future, these hot days and heat waves will be even more common, especially if emisisons continue increasing on their current path.

The report documents that the annual frequency of three straight 90-degree days in the first years of this century (2000-2013) was 2.6 times the rate in the last 39 years of the last century (1961-1999). For the future, if heat-trapping emissions are held to a low level, the average projection is that by mid-century those heat waves will be 3.5 times as frequent by mid-century as in 1961-1999. By the end of the century, 4.4 times.

But with medium-high future emissions, these heat waves could be 5.2 times as frequent, and by the end of the century 9.1 times.

Lucinda Smith, director of the Environmental Services department in Fort Collins, said, “The City is already engaged in evaluating risk and vulnerability to the provision of City services and infrastructure from a changing climate. The information contained in this unique report will help the City plan for and prioritize actions to minimize the impacts of predicted heat increases.”

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist and senior research scientist at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, said, "The higher frequency of very hot temperatures is indicative of what we all may be dealing with more often in the near future. I appreciate that our city is thinking about potential future consequences from heat, drought, wildfire and floods and being proactive today.”

In 2017, RMCO released a more comprehensive report on projected climate extremes in Larimer County, including Fort Collins.