National Weather Service Lowers Threshold For Issuing Heat Advisories In New England

Jun 22, 2017

When there are two or more consecutive days above 95 degrees, heat advisories – warnings to residents to take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion or other illnesses – will now be issued in most of New England and southern New York by the National Weather Service.

Previously, heat advisories were issued only when temperatures hit 100 degrees for over two hours. The decision to lower the threshold for when heat advisories are issued in the region by the National Weather Service was prompted by the work of a group of officials from around New England that studied the health impact of hot days.

Jared Ulmer, the climate and health coordinator at the Vermont Health Department, was part of that group. Ulmer says for Vermont, health impacts can be seen at temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s.

"When the temperature reaches 87 degrees or warmer, emergency department visits [for heat complaints] are eight times more likely on those days than days that don't reach that 87 degree threshold," Ulmer says.

Ulmer spoke to VPR's All Things Considered about the new changes to heat advisories in New England, including why this region in particular benefits from the lower threshold.

Credit Vermont Department Of Health, courtesy

"In Vermont, where our hot days are so infrequent, it can be really tough for our bodies to adjust to those hotter temperatures and change your activities to work around the hot weather," Ulmer says. "And often Vermonters, myself included, don't have air conditioning, so it's hard to find relief during those hot days."

Keeping people informed about heat risks is a goal of this lower advisory threshold for the region, Ulmer says.

"It really just allows us to get information out to people much more frequently about the risks related to hot weather," Ulmer says. "A lot of people just don't think of hot weather as a risk in northern New England, so we want people to be aware that, you know, we have usually about 80 emergency department visits a year for some kind of a heat complaint, so it is a real risk in Vermont."

Update 12:42 p.m. 6/23/2017 Ulmer clarified that for days with temperatures of 87 degrees or higher, the statistic cited about increased likelihood for emergency department visits on those days is specific to visits pertaining to heat complaints.

Listen to the conversation from VPR's All Things Considered above.