Feeling the Heat: Global Warming and Rising Temperatures in the United States

Environment Colorado

Denver, Colorado— As we approach the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Environment Colorado released a new report documenting that temperatures are on the rise across Colorado with Denver setting a record for the number of 90 degree days.  According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2007 tied for the second warmest year on record globally and was the 10th warmest year on record in the United States.  These record temperatures are part of a trend toward rising temperatures resulting from global warming.

“We’re feeling the heat. Every year Colorado is rewriting the records on high temps,” said Keith Hay, energy advocate at Environment Colorado. “Rising temperatures is one race we cannot afford to win.  We need to start working today on solutions to cut global warming pollution.” 

According to NASA, seven of the eight warmest years on record globally occurred between 2001 and 2007.  These above-average temperatures led Environment Colorado to more closely examine recent temperature trends here in Colorado. 

“Feeling the Heat: Global Warming and Rising Temperatures in the United States” compares government temperature data for the years 2000-2007 with the historical average, or “normal,” temperature for the preceding 30 years, 1971-2000.  Our data were collected at 255 weather stations – those with the highest quality data – in all 50 states and Washington, DC. 

 Key findings for Colorado include:

  • In 2007, the average temperature in Colorado Springs was 2.1°F above normal.
  • Above-average temperatures in Alamosa, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction in 2007 are part of a warming trend.  Between 2000 and 2007, the average temperature was over 2°F above the historical average in each of those cities.  Nationally, the average temperature during this eight-year period was at least 0.5°F above normal at nearly 90 percent of the weather stations.
  • In 2007, Pueblo experienced average maximum temperatures — the highest temperatures recorded on a given day — of 2.5°F above normal.
  • Over the course of 2007, Denver experienced 54 days where the temperature hit at least 90°F, which is 20 days more than the historical average.  Extreme heat can have serious implications for human health, causing heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death. 
  • Colorado Springs experienced average minimum temperatures — the lowest temperatures recorded on a given day, usually at night — of 2.3°F above normal in 2007.  Warmer nighttime summer temperatures exacerbate the public health effects of extreme heat, since people need cooler nighttime temperatures to recover from excessive heat exposure during the day.

Gary Graham, Executive Director of Colorado Audubon stated, “While one or two degrees may not seem like much, any parent with a sick child knows that even a small rise in temperature can have a big effect. Here in Colorado rising temperatures will mean more wildfires,  a loss native fish, bird and game habitats and with them a Western way of life.”

A recent Bush Administration report said “it is very likely” that more people will die in the United States during extremely hot periods in the future.  In addition, the report identified: water shortages from early snowmelt, degraded air quality, wildfires, heat waves, and drought as particular risks for Colorado and the Intermountain West.

“We’re at a crossroads on energy, and it’s up to the next President to choose a new path that curbs global warming and helps recharge our struggling economy,” said Senator Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont). “Colorado is showing the way forward to repowering America with clean, green electrons. By building wind farms in wheat fields and putting solar on rooftops, we are cutting global warming pollution and bringing good paying green jobs.”

According to the latest climate science, the United States and the world must break its dependence on fossil fuels and transition rapidly to 100 percent clean, renewable energy if we hope to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

“There is no question that the Earth is warming. Leading world scientists agree that the evidence of global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activities are responsible for most of the increase in global average temperatures.  Burning fossil fuels to power cars, homes, and industry produces most U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide that are causing this warming,”according to Dr. Kevin Trenberth, the Head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder and a lead author on the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment.

Recently, more than 150 members of Congress, including Representative Diana DeGette, endorsed strong principles for action on energy and global warming.  Environment Colorado urges that those principles be the blueprint for action for the next President and Congress.

“We commend Congresswoman DeGette for her leadership on this critical issue.  And we urge the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation to support strong science-based legislation that would put the United States on track to solving global warming,” concluded Hay.